Recent studies link the “sunshine vitamin” to possible benefits in a wide range of diseases, stemming from the likelihood of low blood levels of vitamin D leading to metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a complex of conditions such as obesity, hypertension and poor insulin metabolism and is therefore linked to a greater danger of diabetes and heart disease.

A Dutch research team studied 1300 men and women age 65 and older.  Overall, nearly half the participants had low blood levels of vitamin D, and 37% suffered from metabolic syndrome.

Co-author of the study, Marelise Echhoff, MD, PhD, of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam said, “Because metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, an adequate vitamin D level in the body might be important in the prevention of these diseases.”   Echoff believes the link is plausible because vitamin D deficiency was previously linked to insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion.

In a second study presented at the Endocrine Society conference, Esther Krug, MD, of Johns Hopkins University and her colleagues reviewed medical charts of 124 type 2 diabetes patients, ranging in age from 36 to 89, at an endocrine outpatient facility.  Over 90% of the patients were deficient in vitamin D and were more likely to have higher blood-sugar readings.

Only 6% of the patients were taking vitamin D supplements.

All patients received routine primary care before their visit  to the endocrine outpatient facility, but the care hadn’t included testing blood levels of vitamin D.

Krug observed, “Since primary care providers diagnose and treat most patients with type 2 diabetes, screening and vitamin D supplementation as part of routine primary care may improve health outcomes of this highly prevalent condition.”

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, May 20, 2013   Studies presented at annual meeting of the Endocrine Society


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