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The Diabetes epidemic in Australia, could low levels of vitamin D be one of the risks and could vitamin D3 supplements help.

Russell Setright

Updated August 2020

The incidence of diabetes in Australia is increasing and, at the same time we are seeing a corresponding deficiency in vitamin D levels. Studies show there is a strong link between the development of diabetes type-2 and vitamin D deficiency and a possible reduction in risk between childhood type-1 diabetes and vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D is believed to help improve our sensitivity to insulin which may improve regulation of blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes

The growing body of evidence supports the theory that low blood serum levels of 25(OH)vit D is also associated with an increase of many diseases including diabetes and CVD, (Dobnig H, et al. Independent association of low serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D with all cause mortality. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2008 Jun 23;168:1340-1349).

One large meta-analysis found a significant association between low serum levels of 25(OH)vit D and an increase in the incidence of diabetes, CVD and metabolic syndrome. This research examined 28 studies that included 99,745 men and women across a variety of ethnic groups. The studies revealed a significant association between high levels of vitamin D (25(OH)VitD) and a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (55% reduction) and metabolic syndrome (51% reduction) ( Levels of vitamin D and cardiometabolic disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis J.Maturitas Volume 65, Issue 3, 225-236, March 2010).

Also review and meta-analysis of the data from five trials that included 6455 infants, of which 1429 were cases and 5026 controls was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. The data from the five observational studies, found that infants who received vitamin D supplements were 29 per cent less likely to develop type-1 diabetes than non-supplemented infants (Zipitis C et al. "Vitamin D supplementation in early childhood and risk of type 1 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis" Archives of Disease in Childhood (British Medical Journal) .2007).

Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, September 2007 looked at 1770 children at high risk of developing type-1 diabetes. Their study reported that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources may reduce a child's of developing type-1 diabetes by 55 per cent. Vitamin D found in cod liver oil, a popular marine supplement, may have been a contributing factor.

A recent study of 43,559 participants examining the effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on the Incidence of Diabetes Mellitus found In patients with prediabetes, vitamin D supplementation at moderate to high doses (≥1000 IU/day), significantly reduced the incidence risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitus , compared with placebo (The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 105, Issue 8, August 2020, Pages 2857–2868)

Vitamin D deficiencies in Australia

The data are consistent in that low blood serum levels of 25(OH)VitD (25-hydroxyvitamin D) is at an alarming rate in Australia. Those people with dark or olive skin, the elderly and veiled (80% may have mild deficiency) as well as those who wear protective clothing and always use sunscreen have the greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency . In addition, those taking anticonvulsant medication or suffer from renal, hepatic or cardiopulmonary disease or those who have fat malabsorption syndromes (e.g., cystic fibrosis) or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease, are also at risk. (Vitamin D, National Health and Medical Research Council 2010, Ministry of Health. Australian Government)



The data are consistent that vitamin D deficiency is a contributing factor not only to diabetes but many disease. Correcting any dietary deficiency is an important factor in the maintenance of good health.

Current research suggests that a blood level of around 73 nmol/l of 25 OH Vit D is recommended and should be discussed with your health care practitioner.

IMPORTANT In addition to diet, weight management and lifestyle changes, Diabetes must be managed by your medical doctor, if you think you may be at risk or have diabetes see your doctor for advice and treatment.

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