Food & Nutrition

Low Vitamin D May Contribute to Insulin Resistance

Many studies have looked at the role of vitamin D in diabetes and have shown an association between low levels of vitamin D and increased risk for type 2 diabetes and its complications. And what’s concerning is that low levels of vitamin D—also dubbed the “sunshine” vitamin—are all too common, especially among older adults and people of certain ethnic/racial groups.

Healthy foods containing vitamin D

How Vitamin D Helps Foot Ulcers 

One recent study linked low vitamin D levels to a higher likelihood of foot ulcers in older people with diabetes. The study was the first to assess vitamin D levels among people who were in the hospital with a diabetic foot ulcer. Vitamin D levels were found to be steadily lower as the severity of the ulcer worsened. In fact, people with the most favorable foot ulcer (least severe based on the grading scale), had vitamin D levels that were more than twice that seen in people with the worst stage or grade of ulcer.

The study included 339 people aged 60 to 90 who were in the hospital with type 2 diabetes, 204 with and 135 without foot ulcers. Most people, 8 out of 10, had vitamin D deficiency (generally defined as less than 50 nmol/L or less than 20 ng/mL). But vitamin D deficiency was more common among those with a diabetic foot ulcer compared with those without.

Researchers said the findings should encourage patients to ask about screening for low vitamin D with a simple blood test and/or whether they should be taking vitamin D supplements, which may help lower risk for foot ulcers. The study also showed that how long someone had diabetes and having high systolic blood pressure (the top number) also increased risk of foot ulcers.

How Vitamin D Helps Your Body Use Insulin

Another study tied higher vitamin D to a lower risk of insulin resistance, when the body is unable to respond to or use the insulin that it’s producing. Researchers found that the chance of developing insulin resistance went down with each additional amount of vitamin D supplement taken. Researchers say this might indicate that vitamin D3 is a protective factor in the occurrence of insulin resistance because it helps lower inflammation and inflammation raises your risk for insulin resistance.

More studies are needed to understand the relationship between vitamin D and insulin activity and whether it’s different for certain groups of patients.

Did you know?

  • About 4 in 10 adults are vitamin D deficient, meaning they don’t get or make enough
  • Vitamin D is found in just a few foods, such as fortified milk and cereals, egg yolks, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • It’s called the “sunshine” vitamin because we mainly get it from sunlight
  • Low vitamin D can affect bone health and it’s also been linked to depression, low energy and certain skin and other conditions

Discover Your Vitamin D Levels

If you’re unsure what your vitamin D levels are, talk to your doctor about getting tested, and ask them about nutrition and how to make sure you have healthy levels of vitamin D and other essential nutrients.