Vitamin D and Calcium for Better Blood Sugar
By Jack Challem
You probably know about the vitamin D-calcium connection and that these nutrients are essential for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, the age-related thinning of the bones. But new research strongly suggests that vitamin D and calcium also play important roles in maintaining normal insulin function and glucose control — the keys to diabetes.
The federal government's "recommended" daily intake of vitamin D ranges from 200 to 400 IU, depending on age, and doctors and dietitians for years cautioned against taking large amounts of vitamin D supplements. This was because a couple of studies from the 1980s suggested that large doses could be toxic.
But that caution has largely evaporated over the past several years, mainly because those old studies have been rejected due to poor-quality science. Since then vitamin D has entered a nutritional and medical renaissance of sorts.
Now experts like Michael Holick, M.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine, and Walter C. Willett, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, stress vitamin D's safety — and recommend much larger amounts.
An article in Archives of Internal Medicine (2009) reports that vitamin D levels among Americans have decreased over the past 10 or so years. Researchers note that three of every four people do not have adequate vitamin D levels. The numbers may be even worse during the winter months when the sun is low and people spend more time indoors, which interferes with vitamin D production.
The growing consensus is that every man, women, child, and infant should take 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily or 2,000 IU if they have a dark complexion. That may sound like a lot compared to the current 200 IU, but you would have to take 50,000 IU daily — practically a whole bottle a day — for months before you would develop any symptoms of toxicity.
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 10/10
- Pittas AG, J Lau, FB Hu, et al. 2007. The role of vitamin D and calcium in type 2 diabetes. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 92: 2017-2029.
- Pittas AG, SS Harris, PC Stark, et al. 2007. The effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on blood glucose and markers of inflammation in nondiabetic adults. Diabetes Care 30: 980-986.
- Wu T, WC Willett, and E Giocannucci. 2009. Plasma c-peptide is inversely associated with calcium intake in women with plasma 25-hydroxy vitamin D in men. Journal of Nutrition 139: 547-554.
- Chiu KC, A Chu, VL Go, et al. 2004. Hypovitaminosis D is associated with insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79:820-820.
- Lee P and R Chen. 2008. Vitamin D as an analgesic for patients with type 2 diabetes and neuropathic pain. Archives of Internal Medicine 168:771-772.
- Ginde AA, MC Liu, and CA Camargo. 2009. Demographic differences and trends of vitamin D insufficiency in the US population, 1988-2004. Archives of Internal Medicine 169: 626-632.
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