BOSTON — Getting some sun — or just taking a vitamin D supplement — may lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes for the nearly 400 million adults at risk worldwide, according to a new study. A team from Tufts Medical Center says taking the supplements could lead to a 15-percent drop in the likelihood of developing the condition among adults with prediabetes.
A person with prediabetes has higher than normal blood sugar levels, but they are not high enough to for a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. However, they are still more at risk of developing the condition in the future. The researchers reviewed and analyzed three clinical trials during their study.
They found that over a three-year follow-up period, new onset diabetes occurred in 22.7 percent of adults who received vitamin D, compared to 25 percent among those who took a placebo. The team then took these results and estimated how vitamin D supplements would impact adults with prediabetes across the globe. They found that cheap vitamin D supplements could delay the development of diabetes.
“Our results show vitamin D provides a modest benefit in lowering diabetes risk in adults with high-risk prediabetes,” says Dr. Anastassios Pittas, Chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Tufts Medical Center, according to a statement from SWNS.
“This could have significant public health implications for the 96 million adults in the US (38% of all US adults) and more than 400 million people worldwide who are at risk for diabetes. However, there are still some important unknowns.”
“For example, we do not know the optimal vitamin D dose or formulation, and whether we should be aiming for a specific vitamin D level in the blood that would maximize benefit in this population, with little or no risk of any side effects,” Dr. Pittas continues. “Our team plans to design future studies to answer these important questions.”
“In trials that were specifically designed to test the hypothesis that vitamin D reduces the rate of progression to diabetes in people with prediabetes, the risk for developing diabetes was consistently lower in the group assigned to vitamin D than in the placebo group.”
What are the best ways to get more vitamin D?
Type 2 diabetes usually affects older adults more than other age groups, but it is becoming more common among younger people in recent years. Some symptoms include increased hunger, unintended weight loss, tiredness, blurry vision, and increased thirst.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is abundant in foods such as oily fish, red meat, and egg yolks. The body also produces it when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin, making supplements especially useful during the winter months. Vitamin D is vital in keeping bones, teeth, and muscles healthy, as it helps regulate calcium in the body.
The study is published in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine.
South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.