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Low vitamin D linked to Type 2 diabetes risk

Children with low vitamin D levels are more likely to be at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a study suggesting a deficiency could help trigger the disease.Low vitamin D linked to Type 2 diabetes riskResearchers found those with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to be obese and have higher degrees of insulin resistance, when the hormone becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar.

Dr Micah Olson, lead author of the study Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews , published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, said: “Although our study cannot prove causation, it does suggest that low vitamin D levels may play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes.”

He added: “Future studies are needed to determine the clinical significance of lower vitamin D levels in obese children, the amount and duration of treatment necessary to replenish vitamin D levels in these children and whether treatment with vitamin D can improve primary clinical endpoints such as insulin resistance.”

The skin helps manufacture vitamin D, but only when exposed to strong sunlight. In the winter and early spring the body’s reserves can drop to low levels, particularly if a person has had insufficient exposure in the summer months.

Vitamin D can also be derived from certain foods, such as oily fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.

Therefore, lack of vitamin D could simply be a sign of a generally unhealthy lifestyle: not getting out for enough exercise in the fresh air, and not eating a good diet.

Children who sit in front of the television for most of the day, snacking on fatty foods, are therefore likely to have lower vitamin D levels and be overweight as well. The two factors might not be biologically related.

Nonetheless, Dr Iain Frame, director of the charity Diabetes UK, said the study “adds to growing evidence of a link between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.”

He went on: “However, as the authors note, the exact causes of vitamin D deficiency and its role in the development of Type 2 diabetes are still unclear.

“Diabetes UK is currently funding research at the University of Glasgow to help establish if people with Type 2 diabetes might benefit from vitamin D supplementation.

“Until we know more, it is not possible to recommend vitamin D supplements to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and people should not see this as an easy fix.

“Maintaining a healthy weight by keeping to a healthy diet and undertaking regular physical activity is still the best way to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”