How Vitamin D3 Slows Down the Progression of Diabetes

Slowing the Progression of Type 2 Diabetes with Vitamin D

According to the most recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the US population have diabetes. What’s more, a staggering 37% of US adults 20 years of age and older were found to have prediabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Much of the food we eat gets broken down into glucose, or sugar, that is then used by our body for energy. Just as a car needs fuel, our body needs glucose to function and run properly.

In healthy individuals, once food is broken down into glucose, an organ that lies in our abdomen called the pancreas produces a helper hormone called insulin. Insulin signals to our cells that glucose is present and stimulates them to take in the glucose to be used as energy. With properly functioning communication between our cells and insulin, glucose levels stay stable.

When an individual has diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or cells become resistant to insulin. Either way, glucose no longer enters cells. When this happens, glucose builds up in the blood and, when left untreated, can lead to many short-term and long-term complications.  Although there are different types of diabetes that exist, for all practical purposes of this article, the focus will be on type 2 diabetes.

vitamin d3 and diabetes

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not respond to insulin properly. This phenomenon is more commonly known as insulin resistance. Initially, the pancreas works very hard to produce extra insulin to make up for the resistance that is occurring. However, over time, the pancreas is not able to sustain this hyperactivity. When this happens, blood glucose levels rise, causing a state of constant hyperglycemia.

Many things contribute to developing type 2 diabetes such as lifestyle, ethnicity, having a family history, impaired glucose response, obesity, older age, having of history of gestational diabetes, and physical inactivity. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is the state where an individual has higher than normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. This condition poses as a high risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes. Several studies have shown that healthy lifestyle change that resulted in weight loss and increased physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Current research also suggests that vitamin D supplementation may help.

Improving Insulin Sensitivity & Reducing Inflammation

There is a general consensus that having decreased levels of vitamin D is significantly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Recent attention has been given to the possible benefits vitamin D supplementation may have on slowing the progression of the disease as well as the risk of prediabetes advancing to type 2 diabetes.


In a small study published by Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, prediabetic individuals who also had low vitamin D levels were randomly divided into two groups. Of the groups, one was supplemented with vitamin D and the other was not. Both groups were provided with lifestyle interventions and followed for one year after the study.

Results showed that the group of individuals supplemented with vitamin D had overall higher vitamin D levels, lower fasting blood glucose levels, and lower inflammatory proteins found in the blood when compared to the group not supplemented with vitamin D.

Additionally, the vitamin D supplementation group had a significantly lower progression rate to diabetes and a higher reversal rate back to normal glucose levels in comparison to the non-supplemented group. Due to these outcomes, the authors concluded that vitamin D may have a possible role in improving health outcomes of people with prediabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Many serious health conditions have been linked with the progression of type 2 diabetes. These include, but are not limited to, increased systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, renal failure, blindness, nerve damage, and lower limb amputations. Therefore, it is imperative that the progression of type 2 diabetes be slowed down as much as possible.

Statistically, American Indians, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A study published in Ethnicity & Disease showed the first known evidence that there may be a relationship between long term vitamin D supplementation and significant improvements in glucose levels among obese and overweight African American individuals with type 2 diabetes.

In this study, Green et al. gave individuals vitamin D supplementation, in addition to their pre-existing medication, over a three-year period. Results showed that as the years passed, vitamin D levels increased and HbA1c levels significantly decreased. This could possibly offer a further avenue of long-term treatment in slowing the progression of type 2 diabetes among African Americans.

Prevention Is Key

According to the American Diabetes Association, the following are some symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger even though you are eating
  • Extreme feelings of thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet

If you believe you may be at risk for developing diabetes, it is important to talk to your doctor and a Registered Dietitian to create a medication, supplementation, diet, and exercise plan that is right for you. Early detection and prevention is the key to decreasing the risk of diabetes, slowing its progression, and avoiding its many serious health complications.

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