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What is the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and diabetes?

The relationship between vitamin D deficiency and diabetes is scientifically proven. In this article we explain exactly how it works.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in a few foods such as the liver of some fatty fish and their oils and, to a lesser extent, in butter and egg yolk. In this way, only 10% of the body’s vitamin D comes from food, with our skin being the main source of synthesis (with the help of the ultraviolet light interaction). To ensure the necessary vitamin D synthesis, a brief and casual sun exposure of the arms is sufficient; and it is not to forget that the damaging effect of the sun on the skin predominates and that we must protect ourselves from its effects with protective creams. Once ingested or synthesized in the skin, vitamin D needs to be metabolized mainly by the liver and kidney to obtain its active form,

What is vitamin D for?

The most known action of vitamin D is that which develops in the metabolism of calcium, in bone. Mild-moderate vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures. Rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults are the most serious bone diseases resulting from a severe deficiency of this vitamin, rare diseases in our society but still present in populations with a very low sun exposure, in addition to people with intake of unfortified foods or those that suffer from malabsorption syndromes.

There are groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency: people older than 70 years, in whom the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin is not as effective, young children (due to their low sun exposure) or the disabled (for the same reason ). It is recommended in all of them to take fortified foods in vitamin D (bread, cereals and dairy products mainly) and supplements with extra doses of vitamin D according to the cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) establishes daily vitamin D requirements that range between 400 and 800 IU per day according to age and risk groups.

But vitamin D not only acts at the level of calcium and bone metabolism, but also regulates many other cellular functions (its receptor is present in an infinity of cells of different organs) and it is estimated that approximately 3% of the human genome is under the control of active vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency and its relationship with some diseases

– Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased muscle weakness and an increased risk of falls . Supplementation with vitamin D in people with a moderate deficit has been shown to improve both parameters.

– Some studies have associated vitamin D deficiency with the increased risk of some cancers such as colon cancer. However, there is no clear evidence and it has not been shown that vitamin D treatment reduces this risk

– The level of vitamin D has been linked to the development of some diseases with an autoimmune mechanism such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis or inflammatory bowel disease. As it happens in other diseases, it has not been observed that the treatment with this vitamin reduces its incidence. The relationship between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of infections has also been observed, since vitamin D has an effect on the immune system that favors the increase of defenses against infections.

– There is a relationship between low levels of vitamin D and the development of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

– A determining factor to take into account when conducting studies with vitamin D is that the recipient of this vitamin can be of different types (genetic polymorphisms). Thus, it is considered that these differences can also play an important role in drawing conclusions about the relationship of vitamin D levels and the development of different diseases.

Vitamin D and diabetes

There is sufficient scientific evidence to link type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes with vitamin D. Data from epidemiological studies show a clear correlation between vitamin D deficiency and a higher prevalence of the two forms of diabetes. In contrast, the potential beneficial effects of vitamin D supplementation to prevent diseases such as type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes remain a matter of debate. It is proposed, in general, to avoid vitamin D deficiency in people at risk of developing diabetes and to apply the international recommendations for vitamin D supplementation. Any other recommendation is not based on scientific data.

Diabetes type 1

Vitamin D acts as a modulator of the immune system and therefore seems to play an important role in the development of type 1 diabetes. It has been observed that vitamin D deficiency in the first months of life in children at risk of developing this type of diabetes increases the probability of developing it in later years. In addition, we know that if these children are treated in their first months of life with vitamin D, the risk of developing the disease is reduced. Today there is a lack of large-scale and long-term clinical trials to study the effect of certain amounts of vitamin D in the development of type 1 diabetes, but we have valuable data from epidemiological studies and small studies and meta-analyzes.

Type 2 diabetes

Vitamin D is involved in different mechanisms related to the development of type 2 diabetes, including beta cell activity and insulin sensitivity. Vitamin D levels are lower in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes, but it is unknown if there is a causal relationship between these events. In prospective cohort studies, an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and the risk of developing this type of diabetes has been observed, but in numerous intervention studies it has not been possible to demonstrate that treatment with vitamin D decreases the development of this disease or improve your control.

Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to an increased risk of micro and macrovascular complications in people with type 2 diabetes, although a causal relationship remains to be demonstrated.

Read the latest research on vitamin D and diabetics

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