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Vitamin D

Vitamin D could help to reduce diabetes risk in obese children

Adding vitamin D supplements to diets may be an effective addition to treating obesity and its associated insulin resistance

Vitamin D supplements can help obese children and adolescents control their blood-sugar levels, which may reduce their risk of developing diabetes, according to the results from a randomised clinical trial.

“What makes vitamin D insufficiency different in obese individuals is that they process vitamin D about half as efficiently as normal-weight people,” said Dr Catherine Peterson, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. “The vitamin gets stored in their fat tissues, which keeps it from being processed. This means obese individuals need to take in about twice as much vitamin D as their lean peers to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D.”

Dr Catherine Peterson.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that the correction of poor vitamin D status through dietary supplementation may be an effective addition to the standard treatment of obesity and its associated insulin resistance.

“By increasing vitamin D intake alone, we got a response that was nearly as powerful as what we have seen using a prescription drug,” she said. “We saw a decrease in insulin levels, which means better glucose control, despite no changes in body weight, dietary intake or physical activity.”

Peterson and her colleagues studied 35 pre-diabetic obese children and adolescents who were undergoing treatment in university’s Adolescent Diabetic Obesity Program. All of the patients had insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels and had similar diets and activity levels.

Patients were randomly were assigned either a high-dose vitamin D3 (4000 IU/d) supplement or a placebo that they took daily for six months. The researchers researchers measured inflammatory markers (IL-6, TNF-α, C-reactive protein), adipokines (leptin, adiponectin), fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and HOMA-IR values at baseline, and at three and six months follow-up.

After six months, patients who received the supplement became vitamin D sufficient and lowered the amount of insulin in their blood.

This group of patients also had significant increases in serum 25(OH)D concentrations (19.5 vs 2.8ng/mL; p<0.001), fasting insulin (-6.5 vs +1.2μU/mL; p= 0.026), HOMA-IR (-1.363 vs +0.27; p= 0.033), and their leptin-to-adiponectin ratio (-1.41 vs +0.10; p=0.045), compared with the placebo group.

The study found that there were no significant differences in BMI, serum inflammatory markers or plasma glucose concentrations between groups.

“The vitamin D dosage we gave to the obese adolescents in our study is not something I would recommend for everyone,” said Peterson said. “For clinicians, the main message from this research is to check the vitamin D status of their obese patients, because they’re likely to have insufficient amounts. Adding vitamin D supplements to their diets may be an effective addition to treating obesity and its associated insulin resistance.”

The co-authors of the study were Drs Anthony Belenchia, Aneesh Tosh and Laura Hillman also from the University of Missouri.

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