The study does not prove cause and effect. “But if confirmed, there are huge implications because vitamin D is easy and inexpensive,” Anastassios Pittas, MD, of Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
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In a study of over 2,000 people with prediabetes, the higher the level of vitamin D in the blood, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Pittas presented the results here at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association.
Tracking Vitamin D Levels
The three-year study involved 2,039 people with high blood sugar levels. Their vitamin D levels were measured at the start of the study and six months, one year, two years, and three years later.
For every 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) increase in vitamin D levels, the risk of developing diabetes dropped by 8%, Pittas says. Levels of 30 or higher are considered normal.
The participants were divided into three groups. Participants in the group with the highest third of vitamin D levels (average reading of about 30 ng/mL) were 38% less likely to develop diabetes than those in the lowest third (average vitamin D level of 13 ng/mL).
A strength of the study is that vitamin D levels were measured at various time points, Pittas says. Past studies often relied on one measurement at the start of the study, which may not accurately reflect their vitamin D status over time.
The analysis also took into account a person’s body weight, physical activity, and other factors known to decrease diabetes risk. Nonetheless, there could be some unmeasured variable that affected risk, Pittas says. He says a robust clinical trial in which half the people get vitamin D and half get placebo is needed to determine if supplements can stave off diabetes.