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Vitamin D and Diabetes

Posted on June 28, 2010 | No Comments on Vitamin D and Diabetes

Question: What are the benefits of taking Vitamin D? Is it true that it can prevent diabetes?

Adequate and sensible exposure to natural sunlight is the simplest best way of getting Vitamin D. Other sources would be cod liver oil, fortified milk and egg yolks. Contrary to common belief, Vitamin D is NOT actually a vitamin at all. “Vitamins” by definition, are nutrients that cannot be produced by the body, but are necessary for the proper functioning of the body’s tissues and organs. This is not true for Vitamin D since it is produced by our bodies (when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun).Technically, it cannot be considered a vitamin.

Vitamin D (cholecalciferol in medical context) is a pre-hormone (substance synthesized before a true hormone is) that has long been known for its important role in regulating body levels of calcium and phosphorus, and in mineralization of bone.Vitamin D is easily equated with one common disease called rickets, which is the weakening of bones due to deficiency of this vitamin.

At present, Vitamin D is further associated with the prevention and treatment of other recalcitrant disease conditions such as multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, certain cancers such as breast and prostate cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, epilepsy and obesity. The main mechanism involved in how Vitamin D sufficiency can tame this whole range of diseases is its role in the regulation of immune functions and its potent force in regulating cell growth and energy metabolism.

The role of Vitamin D in the prevention of diabetes had been under study many years ago and researches had been done in certain populations to determine the mechanism involved. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to impair insulin synthesis and secretion in humans and in animal models of diabetes, suggesting a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, epidemiological studies suggest a link between vitamin D deficiency in early life and the later onset of type 1┬ádiabetes thru a process of immune dysregulation. Vitamin D is necessary for healthy immunity, that is, it helps control your body’s production of white blood cells called lymphocytes and the chemicals that they produce called cytokines (pro-inflammatory agents). The beta cells of your pancreas produce insulin and release it into your bloodstream when your blood sugar starts to rise.

Instead, with Vitamin D deficiency, over-reactive white blood cells and too much cytokines attack the beta cells in the pancreas and destroy them so they can’t produce insulin during episodes of increased blood sugar, thus, leading to diabetes.

Whether Vitamin D is the missing link in order for us to halt the diabetes epidemic would still entail several large-scale researches to validate this seemingly beneficial action of Vitamin D. But at least, we have something to look forward to if more scientists will be able to come up with the exact mechanism.

The required amount of vitamin D needed by our body is 200 to 400 IU per day, and it wouldn’t hurt if we adhere to this. The “sunshine vitamin” is for free, everybody can avail of it. No prescription required. But remember, too much or too little of this vitamin can bring more harm than good.

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