Science continues to discover the valuable properties of vitamin D. This time, researchers from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, have found that taking high doses of the ‘sunshine’ vitamin slows the progression of diabetes. Apparently, this is because vitamin D has a beneficial effect on the metabolism of glucose in the body, i.e. the processes of its breakdown and absorption, the scientists suggest. However, there is an important nuance: taking shock doses helps and inhibits the development of diabetes only in its early stages. It can also help those diagnosed with pre-diabetes to avoid the disease.
It has previously been known that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing diabetes. However, there was no conclusive evidence that supplementary intake of the vitamin could protect against the onset and progression of the disease. The new study involved patients with newly-onset type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The volunteers were given a dose of 5 to 10 times the normal dose of vitamin D for 6 months (see below). Only 46% of the patients initially had low levels of the vitamin, while the rest had no deficiency.
The researchers measured the main indicators that tell us about metabolism (metabolism) in our bodies: levels of glucose and the hormone insulin. By the end of the experiment, these parameters had improved significantly, the researchers report. Most importantly, the sensitivity of muscle tissue to insulin improved.
“Unfortunately, such improvements were not seen before by our colleagues who conducted similar studies with people at a later stage of diabetes,” clarified one of the authors of the research paper, Dr Claudia Gagnon. This does not mean, however, that vitamin D has no positive impact at all on patients with “advanced” diabetes. Most likely, there is a change, but due to the complications of the disease, the improvement is not as noticeable. Or even higher doses of the vitamin and longer administration are needed, Dr Gagnon suggested.
Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing diabetes.
At the same time, the researchers emphasise: their experiment should never be repeated on its own. Only a doctor can determine the need and dose of the vitamin. What is more, the research is ongoing, as there is no data yet on the effects on the body of long-term high-dose vitamin D supplementation. And what is the optimum dose in every case.
Normal or deficient?
Nowadays, medics estimate vitamin D blood levels as follows:
– 30 to 60 ng/ml is optimal;
– under 30 ng/ml – deficiency, when a therapeutic dose of vitamin D should be prescribed;
– less than 20 ng/ml – deficiency, which can lead to associated diseases.
What about blood glucose levels?
– 3.3 to 5.5 mmol/l is normal;
– 6 to 6.7 mmol/l – prediabetes;
– 6.7 mmol/l and higher – diabetes mellitus.
Everyone needs this vitamin in normal amounts, like any vital substance
We asked Zukhra Pavlova, endocrinologist of Moscow State University Hospital, head of the Clinic of Systemic Medicine, Ph.D., presenter of the “Notes of Doctor Pavlova” Internet channel, to discuss the role of vitamin D and its impact on the body according to the latest scientific and medical data.
– Vitamin D is a precursor of D-hormone, the most important substance for our body. Depending on where you live, you may be deprived of the full production of this substance in your body.
For example, people living in northern latitudes, where there is little sunshine, are often deficient. Or people who eat little food with vitamin D (eggs, butter, sea fish, etc. – Ed.). Now we also know that there are polymorphisms – congenital changes, variations of genes, in which a person simply can not produce the necessary amount of vitamin D, even under favorable external conditions.
How much vitamin D should I take? The current official recommendations are seriously outdated. For example, according to World Health Organization standards, a daily dose is 400 to 500 international units (IU). But I know from experience: this doesn’t cover the chronic deficiency we all find ourselves in. More often than not I have to prescribe at least 5000 IU vitamin d a day after all the tests. I know colleagues abroad who have the same experience.
The study notes that increased doses of the vitamin led to improvement. This is how the necessary metabolic response occurred, i.e. improvements, including clinical ones.
I emphasize – do not “treat on the Internet”, to determine the deficiency and the dose individually should your doctor, such as an endocrinologist.
Since vitamin D is a hormone precursor, it acts on the body systemically. If the vitamin is deficient, cognitive functions such as memory are reduced. Bone mineral density decreases. When the level of the hormone increases to normal values, even the production of the male sex hormone testosterone improves.
It is important not to lead to chronic vitamin D deficiency. Because the longer the abnormalities persist, the more severe the complications develop. It is usually not possible to restore them to their original level. The sooner deficiencies of any substance, including vitamin D, are remedied, the better.