Can Vitamin D Reduce Diabetes Risk? Prevent Naturally and Diet Tips
8 minute read
Most people are aware that vitamin D is an essential component in bone health. It is also the reason we are encouraged to spend some time in the sun every day.
A deficiency in vitamin D can cause more damage than people realize. Recent studies found that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a greater risk for diabetes. And all this time we thought diabetes was only related to sugar.
The Vitamin D and Diabetes Link
A study was recently conducted of healthy individuals that had no indications of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Each individual was followed for ten years, recording both blood glucose levels and vitamin D levels.
What researchers found was that individuals who had higher levels of vitamin D had lower risks for developing diabetes. The individuals recorded as being vitamin D deficient were at a five times greater risk to develop diabetes.
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This research was for epidemiological purposes only, so does not provide cause and effect. Further research is needed to determine if a vitamin D deficiency causes diabetes.
For now, the lack of vitamin D in your body is present at the same time as elevated blood glucose levels, indicating a link to diabetes. Vitamin D has previously been linked to reducing certain types of cancer, so there is always a possibility that it can prevent diabetes too.
There also seems to be a link between vitamin D and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a known contributor to type 2 diabetes, as it leads to chronic inflammation, and low levels of vitamin D are often present in cases of insulin resistance.
Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for regulating blood glucose levels, so becoming resistant to this hormone means blood sugar levels can reach dangerously high levels.
It is thought that supplementing with vitamin D will help people to overcome this resistance and prevent the development of diabetes. This could significantly benefit treatment programs by allowing a multifaceted approach.
By treating diabetes with vitamin D supplements as well as the usual monitoring of blood glucose levels, individuals have a better chance of avoiding complications associated with the disease.
Other Risks for Diabetes
Diabetes affects millions around the world, and a vitamin D deficiency is not the only risk factor you should worry about. While this vitamin seems to have an important link with the development of diabetes, there is more that you should be aware of to reduce your chances of becoming a diabetic.
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It turns out that genetics and lifestyle choices affect your chances of developing diabetes. You may not be able to control your age, gender, ethnicity, and genetic makeup, but there are some risk factors that you can control:
♦ Being overweight or obese
♦ Having high triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
♦ Having a history of heart attack or stroke
♦ Being physically inactive
♦ Having high blood pressure (hypertension)
♦ Suffering with depression
♦ How to Control or Prevent Diabetes
Since there are several lifestyle factors that increase your risk for developing diabetes, this means there are choices you can make to prevent this too. By making a few key changes to your life, you can reduce your risk for developing diabetes.
Healthy diet: Based on the research discussed earlier, it is a good idea to increase your vitamin D intake as a way to lower your risk of getting diabetes. Additionally, you want to moderate the sugary foods you eat and increase antioxidant-rich foods to fight inflammation.
Don’t forget this includes carbohydrates too, as they turn into sugar once consumed. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are essential for your overall health, and can replace unhealthy fats and sugars in your diet.
Exercise: If you are not currently active, it is a good time to start. Even if you have not been flagged for pre-diabetes, it is never too late to start being active.
Regular physical activity gets your blood flowing and your heart pumping, allowing your body to more efficiently regulate blood sugar levels. Exercise also helps to keep extra weight off and obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes.
Manage cholesterol: High LDL (bad) cholesterol levels are associated with diabetes, and the best way to control LDL levels is through a balanced diet. Avoiding foods that contain monounsaturated fats keeps your risk levels down.
It is also a good idea to regularly check in with your doctor to have both blood pressure and cholesterol levels measured. The more regulated these are, the less risk you have for diabetes.
Manage stress: Stress causes blood glucose levels to increase. The body naturally prepares for stress by making sure glucose is readily available for energy.
Insulin levels fall, and stress hormones cause your tissues to be less sensitive to insulin. This combined effect causes blood sugar levels to rise. Prolonged stress will keep blood sugar levels elevated, which increases your risk of diabetes.
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Additionally, when we are stressed we often do not eat healthy, so sugary comfort foods may be consumed more often. Instead of eating, try yoga, meditation, or taking up relaxing hobbies as a healthier way to relieve stress.
Limit alcohol: Alcohol has hidden sugars and many people do not realize how much they are getting every time they drink. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to both rise and fall, so needs to be approached cautiously.
Pay attention to limits provided by your doctor and only drink the recommended amount of alcohol. Some alcoholic drinks contain more carbohydrates or sugars than others, so if you do like the occasional drink to relax, check which ones have lower sugar content.
The Bottom Line
Diabetes can be devastating, but it is generally avoidable. Even if you have a family history of the disease, the choices you make can help protect you from developing it.
Outside of the various lifestyle changes you can make, increasing your intake of vitamin D seems to have a positive effect. While the exact relationship is not yet known, vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risk for diabetes, so its better to be safe than sorry.
Grab a supplement or spend more time in the sun and keep diabetes at bay.