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Low vitamin D coupled with obesity dramatically raises diabetes risk

by: John Phillip, August 03, 2012

It is no surprise to most people that the current obesity epidemic is placing millions of unsuspecting individuals at grave risk of early death, in part by dramatically increasing the incidence of diabetes. Excess body weight damages metabolic balance, allowing wildly fluctuating blood glucose and insulin levels to inflict significant damage to most organ systems. Diabetes affects 25.6 million adults and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Researchers from the Drexel University School of Public Health have published the result of a study in the journal Diabetes Care that demonstrates the combination of obesity and vitamin D deficiency may put people at even greater risk of insulin resistance than either factor alone. Lead study author, Dr. Shaum Kabadi explained "Vitamin D insufficiency and obesity are individual risk factors for insulin resistance and diabetes... our results suggest that the combination of these two factors increases the odds of insulin resistance to an even greater degree than would have been expected based on their individual contributions."

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To perform this study, researchers analyzed data on serum vitamin D levels and indicators of insulin resistance and diabetes from 5,806 respondents to a major national health survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Based on the premise that vitamin D is stored in adipose fat tissue and more difficult for the body to access, the scientists wanted to determine if people who are already overweight are more likely to have low levels of serum vitamin D and increased risk of chronic disease.

Numerous studies over the past decade have highlighted the critical importance of maintaining optimal levels of circulating vitamin D (50 to 70ng/mL using the 25(OH)D blood test). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with many chronic health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, depression and dementia. This study found that obese individuals with healthy levels of vitamin D had insulin resistance almost 20 times more often than the overall population. In obese individuals whose serum vitamin D was low, insulin resistance was nearly 32 times more common than the average.

The authors indicated that further research is necessary to determine whether obesity itself causes a low vitamin D level or if it's the other way around. They concluded "Within a cross-sectional, nationally representative sample, abdominal obesity and insufficient 25(OH)D interact to synergistically influence the risk of insulin resistance." Regardless of causality, health-minded individuals will want to supplement with an oil-based form of vitamin D3 (3000 to 5000 IU per day), and check blood levels regularly to lower the devastating risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.