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Vitamin D deficiency linked with higher risk of developing prediabetes: new study

Researchers from TILDA have released new research, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, showing that vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 62% increased likelihood of developing prediabetes over 4-years.

Association between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of prevalent type 2 diabetes and incident prediabetes on Biteable.

Vitamin D is known to play an important role in bone and muscle health, while evidence is accumulating that supports vitamin D having many extra-musculoskeletal effects, such as in diabetes. Vitamin D can be obtained from consuming certain foods and made from our skin with adequate sunlight exposure. However, in Ireland, having low levels of vitamin D is common, with 1 in 8 adults aged 50 or older having deficient levels. Diabetes develops when blood sugar levels in the blood are consistently higher than they should be. Diabetes increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. Prediabetes is the stage where blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but not so high as to have diabetes. The majority will go on to develop diabetes.
Key findings:

  • those who had low levels of vitamin D were 62% more likely to develop prediabetes at 4-year follow-up compared to those with higher levels of vitamin D
  • each unit increase in body mass index increasing the likelihood of new prediabetes by 7%
  • smokers twice as likely to develop prediabetes over a 4-year period compared to non-smokers

Dr Kevin McCarthy, first author, said:

"This study supports the role vitamin D may play in diabetes. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were far more likely to have higher blood sugar levels within 4 years. We know most people with prediabetes go on to develop diabetes, and all the health problems that diabetes can bring, so it is important that we address modifiable risk factors to reduce the likelihood of people developing diabetes. The results also highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, both of which also have numerous other health benefits."

Prof. Rose Anne Kenny, Regius Professor at Trinity College Dublin and senior author of the study said:

"Diabetes is a very common condition and increasingly so, with 1 in 10 adults aged 50 or older in Ireland having diabetes. This has huge implications, both at an individual level in terms of health and disability but also at a societal level in terms of the economic costs, for medications, hospital care etc. This study highlights the role vitamin D status may have on developing diabetes, with those with levels vitamin D ≥75nmol/L nearly 40% less likely to progress to prediabetes than those with vitamin D levels <30nmol/L over a relatively short period of time. Optimising vitamin D status at a population level, targeting those whose levels are deficient, through supplementation or food fortification may help to reduce, or at least delay the onset of diabetes and all the complications associated with chronically raised blood sugars.”

The full paper in eClinicalMedicine is freely available to read, here