October 22, 2013
$40M NIH Study Aims To End Debate Over Vitamin D3 And Diabetes Prevention
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
For years doctors have debated the effects of vitamin D on diabetes. There are those who believe that the risk of diabetes increases when vitamin D is in short supply while others maintain that there is little or no health benefit at all to increasing vitamin D intake.
Now, researchers from the Tufts Medical Center have received a $40 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to finally settle the great vitamin D debate, particularly where it concerns the development of Type 2 diabetes. Often hailed as the “sunshine vitamin,” Americans now spend some $425 million a year on these supplements in the hopes of improving any number of ailments, including the possible prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Anastassios Pittas, who is leading the new study, says there’s little clinical evidence to support any of these claims and hopes his research will finally get to the bottom of this vitamin.
“Past observational studies have suggested that higher levels of vitamin D may be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes, but until this large, randomized and controlled clinical trial is complete, we won’t know if taking vitamin D supplements lowers the risk of diabetes,” said Dr. Pittas in a statement for the NIH.
The vitamin D and type 2 Diabetes (or D2d) study will last several years and will include some 2,500 participants. Dr. Pittas and team will be looking specifically at Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, to understand whether it can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults over the age of 30 with pre-diabetes. Individuals are diagnosed with pre-diabetes if they have elevated blood glucose levels that are not yet high enough to be considered diabetic.
According to Myrlene Staten, M.D., D2d project officer at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), some 79 million Americans are considered pre-diabetic, while some 26 million have officially been diagnosed with full blown diabetes.
To conduct the double-blind study, Pittas and team will observe their participants at 20 medical centers across the US, including Tufts in Boston, Massachusetts. These participants will then be split into groups; one group will be given a hefty daily dose of vitamin D3 while a second group will be given only a placebo. Participants who receive Vitamin D3 treatment will be given 4,000 international units of the supplement, significantly higher than the suggested six to eight hundred units recommended by the NIH.
“Deciding the dose was quite a challenge,” said Dr. Pittas. Any participant already taking these supplement won’t be asked to stop taking them — they’ll just have their dose increased.
“We wanted to give a dose that is still considered safe but is also high enough to differentiate from those on placebo who may still be taking a supplement.”
Though the NIH is spending millions of dollars in an attempt to finally understand the effects of vitamin D3 on type 2 diabetes, they already know one surefire way to reduce the risk of diabetes and even rid people of the disease. Focusing on a healthy diet, shedding extra pounds, and staying active have all been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A regimen of the drug metaformin has also been found to effectively treat diabetes.