What's the "skinny" on vitamin D?

Vitamin D has long been associated with bone health, and it’s true that it plays an important role in regulating calcium deposition and bone formation, but recent research has also shown that Vitamin D plays an important role in cardiovascular heath, immune system regulation, cancer prevention, blood sugar regulation and weight management! Yes, that’s right; vitamin D can help your patients who are struggling with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome!

The numbers of patients with insulin resistance and type II diabetes are growing at alarming numbers. Thanks to many of the diet and lifestyle choices that are prevalent in our culture, children and adults are increasingly more at risk of developing unwanted belly fat and imbalanced blood sugar levels that lead to their insulin receptors losing sensitivity. This problem is self-propagating, as increased insulin resistance will in turn cause more abdominal adipose tissue which is more insulin resistant than other tissue and the cycle continues.

Many patients who have developed insulin resistance will take medication that works on the insulin receptor and improves insulin sensitivity; the most common of these medications is metformin. Research has shown that while metformin may improve insulin sensitivity by 13%, a higher vitamin D level is correlated with a 60% improvement in insulin sensitivity and a clinical trial using 1,332 IU/day for only 30 days in 10 women with type II diabetes improved their insulin sensitivity by 23%. Another study on obese children and adolescents found that “obese children and adolescents with low vitamin D status may be at increased risk of developing impaired glucose metabolism independent of body adiposity.”

Testing for and treating your patients for vitamin D insufficiency this summer may not only help protect them from carcinogenic sun exposure (through it’s many anti-cancer actions), but may play a role in helping them fit into those summer clothes by controlling their blood sugar.

Chiu KC, Chu A, Go VL, Saad MF. Hypovitaminosis D is associated with insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction. Am J Clin Nut. 2004 May; 79(5):820-5.

Borissova AM, Tankova T, Kirilov G, Dakovska L, Kovacheva R. The effect of vitamin D3 on insulin secretion and peripheral insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Clin Pract. 2003 May; 57(4):258-61.

Alemzadeh R, Kichler J, Babar G, Calhoun M. Hypovitaminosis D in obese children and adolescents: relationship with adiposity, insulin sensitivity, ethnicity and season. Metabolism. 2008 Feb; 57(2):183-91.