Can Vitamin D Help Protect Against Diabetes?

vitamin D for diabetes
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Vitamin D may help protect against diabetes, a major disease estimated to affect 8.3 percent of the United States population. A growing number of studies suggest that running low on vitamin D may raise your risk of diabetes. In addition, vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of heart disease and death among people who already have diabetes. However, studies have yet to show that taking vitamin D supplements can prevent or treat diabetes.

How Might Vitamin D Help Fight Diabetes?

In studies on animals and humans, scientists have found that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to insulin resistance (a key factor in the development of diabetes). Additionally, research indicates that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to abnormalities in blood sugar levels.

The Science Behind Vitamin D and Diabetes

People with lower vitamin D levels are significantly more likely to have diabetes compared to people with higher vitamin D levels, according to the National Institutes of Health. While it's possible that taking vitamin D supplements may boost your defense against diabetes, a 2011 report from the journal Current Drug Targets cautions that more research is needed before vitamin D supplements can be recommended for diabetes prevention.

In a 2010 research review published in the journal Endocrine Practice, researchers found that achieving sufficient vitamin D levels may be beneficial for people with prediabetes (a condition that affects about 79 million Americans).

What's more, a 2010 study of 289 diabetes patients found that those with severe vitamin D deficiency had an increased risk of death. Published in Diabetes Care, the study found that patients with severe vitamin D deficiency were more likely to develop cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure).

Some studies also suggest that taking vitamin D in combination with calcium may help protect against diabetes. For instance, a 2007 research review from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism determined that insufficient levels of vitamin D and calcium may negatively affect blood sugar control. The review's authors concluded that taking supplements containing both nutrients may improve blood sugar metabolism.

Taking Vitamin D Supplements to Fight Diabetes

Although it's not known whether vitamin D supplements can aid in diabetes prevention, maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is important for overall health (especially bone health). Since it can be challenging to get your fill of vitamin D solely through food sources and sunlight exposure, many medical experts recommend boosting your vitamin D levels by taking a daily supplement.

While maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is also important for diabetes patients, using vitamin D supplements in place of standard diabetes care can have serious health consequences.

If you're interested in using vitamin D supplements to help with diabetes control, talk to your doctor to determine a safe and effective dosage. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.


Boucher BJ. "Vitamin D insufficiency and diabetes risks." Curr Drug Targets. 2011 Jan;12(1):61-87.

Joergensen C, Gall MA, Schmedes A, Tarnow L, Parving HH, Rossing P. "Vitamin D levels and mortality in type 2 diabetes." Diabetes Care. 2010 Oct;33(10):2238-43.

National Institutes of Health. "Vitamin D: MedlinePlus Supplements". April 2011.

Palomer X, González-Clemente JM, Blanco-Vaca F, Mauricio D. "Role of vitamin D in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus." Diabetes Obes Metab. 2008 Mar;10(3):185-97.

Pittas AG, Lau J, Hu FB, Dawson-Hughes B. "The role of vitamin D and calcium in type 2 diabetes. A systematic review and meta-analysis." J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jun;92(6):2017-29.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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