Type 2 Diabetes And Heart Disease Risks Increase With Vitamin D Deficiency, Study Finds

People at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease might want to consider supplementing with vitamin D3 if they are deficient, a study implies. In North America, it’s nearly impossible to get the daily intake of vitamin D from just the sun’s rays for much of the year, and let’s face it, cod liver oil spoonfuls in the darker months are just not very common these days. A new study conducted on mice at Washington University School of Medicine found that vitamin D plays a huge role in preventing inflammation that is presumed to be at the root of some heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. This research just compounds on a growing body of evidence stressing the importance of adequate vitamin D for proper health. Vitamin D is all over social media and the news.

Both type 2 diabetes and heart disease from atherosclerosis have roots in chronic inflammation, like many diseases. Without vitamin D, crucial immune cells can turn into fat transporters, extra glucose can cause insulin resistance, and plaque can build up and cause hardening of the arteries, the researchers suggest. The results of the study was published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports, according to an article in Science Daily.

The lead researcher of the vitamin D study, Dr. Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, said that the new findings might explain old epidemiologial research that found a link to vitamin D deficiency and diabetes risks.

“The finding that vitamin D helps regulate glucose metabolism may explain previous epidemiological studies identifying an increased risk of diabetes in patients with vitamin D deficiency. In our study, inactivation of the vitamin D receptor induced diabetes and atherosclerosis, so normalizing vitamin D levels may have the opposite effect.”

The study suggests that diabetes and heart disease from hardening of the arteries are linked in their common correlation of increased vitamin D deficiency. When vitamin D receptors in mice were inactivated, inflammation in the liver and artery walls was observed. The lack of vitamin D also seemed to increase the likelihood that blood cells would stick together and get into the walls of their blood vessels where monocytes in the blood would leave cholesterol and give off substances that would induce inflammation linked to heart disease and diabetes.

“We knew that when monocytes matured and became macrophages, they would eat cholesterol deposited inside the blood vessel wall,” Dr. Amy E. Riek, coauthor of the study, said in a press release. “But in these experiments, we found that when they don’t have vitamin D, the monocytes, while they’re still in circulation, also eat up cholesterol and carry it in the bloodstream.”

What’s even more exciting, when scientists allowed the mice to receive vitamin D, their inflammation decreased and their disease symptoms actually reversed.

Warning signs of potential heart disease include erectile dysfunction, baldness, an angled ear crease, and calf pain while walking, according to Reader’s Digest. Warning signs of developing type 2 diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger, numbness and pain in the feet, frequent infections, and blurred vision, according to Everyday Health. Could supplementing with vitamin D3 also help with those issues?

Now, Bernal-Mizrachi and Riek are working on research to see if treating people with type 2 diabetes with vitamin D might be able to eventually help humans with diabetes and heart disease inflammation as well.