D may hold off diabetes and heart disease

New research suggests vitamin D may fight diabetes and clogged arteries in mice by preventing the inflammation that leads to both diseases.

In February, a study suggested that vitamin D deficiency is linked more closely to diabetes than obesity. Researchers found a direct correlation between low vitamin D levels and glucose metabolism. In March, research in mice suggested the vitamin plays a major role in preventing the inflammation that leads to type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.

The study, conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was published in the journal Cell Reports and mentioned on sciencedaily.com.

“The finding that vitamin D helps regulate glucose metabolism may explain previous epidemiological studies identifying an increased risk of diabetes in patients with vitamin D deficiency,” senior investigator Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, MD, associate professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology said in a university release. “In our study, inactivation of the vitamin D receptor induced diabetes and atherosclerosis, so normalizing vitamin D levels may have the opposite effect.”

Inadequate vitamin D also turned immune cells into transporters of fat, according to Bernal-Mizrachi.

This may help researchers better understand how diabetes and atherosclerosis are linked and provide new possibilities for therapy.

The researchers are now conducting clinical studies in people who have type 2 diabetes, treating them with vitamin D to see whether it can prevent some of the complications of diabetes and inflammation in humans, as well as mice.

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