A new study out of India has found that in non-diabetic patients, vitamin D and calcium improve beta cell function and insulin sensitivity.
Type II diabetes (T2D) is characterized by the body’s resistance to insulin and/or its inability to produce enough insulin. Insulin is produced by beta cells in the pancreas and is used to mobilize glucose into our cells for energy. Without enough insulin or the ability to use insulin, the body has a hard time managing glucose properly.
In developed countries, T2D is becoming epidemic, as diets, exercise, and lifestyles continue to change. For reasons not entirely understood, obesity is a major risk factor for T2D.
Researchers are discovering that vitamin D may play a role in T2D. There have been studies that show that vitamin D may help facilitate the production of insulin and increase the survival of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Vitamin D also helps maintain insulin secretion and sensitivity, possibly by helping the body regulate calcium.
In this study, researchers examined 58 non-diabetic subjects over the course of five months. The participants were given 60,000 IU of vitamin D per week and 2,500 mg of calcium per day.
At the end of the trial, researchers found that pancreatic beta cell function improved by 6%, as measured by the homeostasis model assessment.
The researchers also noticed that the improvement in vitamin D status over the course of the trial may have led to better insulin sensitivity. They noticed a general increase in insulin signals with higher vitamin D levels.
“The dose of vitamin D and calcium supplementation given in the present study corrects the vitamin D deficiency of individuals and demonstrated benefits in improvement of pancreatic beta cell function,” the researchers concluded.
The researchers call for larger studies in order to see if raising vitamin D levels can help prevent or treat T2D.