Understanding the link between vitamin D and risk of type 2 diabetes

The number of people globally with type 2 diabetes continues to increase. There is an urgent need to find ways of preventing this serious condition.

Cambridge researchers established a collaboration with colleagues in 8 European countries to study the link between blood vitamin D markers (which show how much vitamin D a person has in their blood) and developing type 2 diabetes. They also forged a collaboration with a laboratory with technical expertise in the measurement of a number of different forms of blood vitamin D in the blood.

They found that higher levels of total vitamin D were related to having lower risk of type 2 diabetes but that some types of vitamin D can be associated with a risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Their findings help to expand prior scientific knowledge as previous studies looked at the total amount of vitamin D diabetes patients had.

This research also helped researchers to understand whether people from northern and southern European countries had different levels (on average) of vitamin D, and the dietary sources that contribute to vitamin D levels in the blood.

This research provides the first evidence for differences in risk of type 2 diabetes depending on the specific type of blood vitamin D. It raises the importance of the need for further understanding of the biology of vitamin D when it is metabolised (processed) into different forms in the body. Further research will be needed to test if the links observed in this research point to cause and effect.

This case study relates to the publication by Zheng J et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab  2019 Apr 1;104(4):1293-1303.

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