June 18, 2008

High-Dose Vitamin D For People With Diabetic Neuropathy

By Napoli, Maryann

Many people with diabetes suffer from a painful condition called peripheral neuropathy. The burning, numbness, tingling and throbbing sensations that primarily affect the feet are notoriously resistant to successful treatment. Two Australian research scientists have conducted a preliminary study showing that high doses of vitamin D may reduce these symptoms. It was published recently as a research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Drs. Paul Lee and Roger Chen found that low blood levels of vitamin D are "highly prevalent" in people with type 2 diabetes, and this was true for the 51 women and men who took part in their study. The participants, average age 62 years, were given high daily doses of vitamin D^sub 3^ (cholecalciferol) in tablet form (mean dose, 2059 IU).

No Adverse Effects

The two research scientists defended the high doses used in their study by citing the ongoing debate among researchers over the optimal level of vitamin D. (see "More About Vitamin D" at right.) Lee and Chen also described high doses of vitamin "free of adverse effects."

Before and after the study, the 51 participants were asked to score the severity of their pain on a scale of one to five. 1) mild; 2) discomforting; 3) distressing; 4) horrible; and 5) excruciating. The participants on average ranked their pain as "distressing" at the start of the study. When the study ended at three months, their average pain score was between "mild" and "discomforting". The results led Lee and Chen to hypothesize that "vitamin D supplementation may be an effective analgesic in relieving neuropathic pain."

The two research scientists acknowledged the limitations of their study which did not randomly assign half the participants to receive a placebo. But they noted, "To our knowledge, this is the first prospective observational study addressing the impact of vitamin D repletion on neuropathic pain in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus."

Copyright Center for Medical Consumers May 2008

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