Many commentators claim that curing Type 2 diabetes could be as simple as taking a vitamin D capsule every day. But what does vitamin D really have to do with blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetes?
Several studies have found that people who have Type 2 diabetes have, on average, lower concentrations of vitamin D in their bloodstream. What these studies do not show is whether lower levels of vitamin D might cause Type 2 diabetes or perhaps Type 2 diabetes causes lower levels of vitamin D.
Scientists know that vitamin D activates the gene that makes the proteins that enable the cell to respond to insulin. Vitamin D also activates a gene called PPAR-gamma, the same gene that is stimulated by drugs in the TZD class, such as Actos and Avandia. Taking more vitamin D, however, does not necessarily increase the activity of these genes.
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That is because the problem may not be a deficiency of vitamin D, but the lack of receptors to attract vitamin D to be absorbed into the cell. Also, vitamin D works in tandem with calcium. Vitamin D helps calcium flow into your beta cells in the pancreas, stimulating them to release insulin. If there isn't enough calcium, or if the cell cannot respond to calcium, then vitamin D may not help.
And sometimes there are other factors that scientists have yet to identify:
- morbidly obese Caucasian women, for instance, don't respond to vitamin D, even after they have had gastric bypass surgery
- moderately overweight Caucasian women with Type 2 diabetes, however, do
- Finnish men with the highest vitamin D levels have the lowest risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
- Vitamin D levels in Mexican-Americans and in persons of South Asian or African descent, however, is unrelated to blood sugar control
- even among persons of European descent, certain genes make diabetics very responsive to vitamin D
- while diabetics who have other genes do not respond to vitamin D at all.
Although evidence suggests that vitamin D plays a role in insulin sensitivity, vitamin D deficiency in part results from poor nutrition. Vitamin D is also produced as a result of your skin being exposed to sunlight. It helps you absorb calcium, among other functions such as helping to enable the cell to respond to insulin. It is often advised you spend 15 to 20 minutes outdoors each day to gain the benefit of sun exposure.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be that fortunate diabetic who responds very well to taking vitamin D supplements daily. Just don't rely on vitamin D as a cure for Type 2 diabetes.
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Beverleigh Piepers RN... the Diabetes Detective.
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