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Low vitamin D levels may raise diabetes risk in children

December 12, 2011

A new US study suggests that obese children with lower vitamin D levels may be at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

In the observational study, blood vitamin D concentrations, blood sugar levels, insulin levels, body mass index, blood pressure and diets were analyzed in 411 obese children and teenagers between the ages of
6 and 16, as well as 87 normal-weight children and teens (1). The study results showed that the obese children were more likely than non-obese children to be vitamin-D deficient: 50% vs. 22% had levels below
50 nmol/l. Both obesity and low vitamin D levels were associated with higher degrees of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

The researchers concluded that low vitamin D levels may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Since obese children were also more likely to skip breakfast and drink more soda than non-obese children, these lifestyle factors may contribute to lower vitamin D levels, the researchers noted. Normal-weight children had greater seasonal variations in vitamin D levels than obese children, suggesting that they had greater sun exposure.

Current evidence suggests that vitamin D may help increase insulin production to help compensate for insulin resistance. While it is not yet clear whether vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, several studies indicate that large segments of the population do not get enough vitamin D from the sun or food. There are studies are underway that examine whether vitamin D supplementation lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes in people with a high risk of developing the disease.

References

  1. Olson M. et al. Vitamin D deficiency in obese children and its relationship to glucose homeostasis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Published online December 2011.