Higher 'D' levels may lower diabetes risk

July 6, 2011

Higher plasma levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced risk of incident diabetes among people at high risk for the disease, Medscape Medical News reports.

Boston - Higher plasma levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced risk of incident diabetes among people at high risk for the disease, Medscape Medical News reports.

A research team headed by Anastassios G. Pittas, M.D., of Boston’s Tufts New England Medical Center, analyzed data from the Diabetes Prevention Program, a three-group trial comparing intensive lifestyle modification or metformin with placebo for the prevention of diabetes in prediabetes patients. Mean follow-up for the 2,039-person cohort was 3.2 years. Plasma vitamin D levels were measured at yearly intervals, when subjects were assessed for incident diabetes. Only participants in the intensive lifestyle and placebo groups were considered.

Investigators found that participants with the highest vitamin D levels (50 ng/mL or higher) had a significantly lower hazard ratio for incident diabetes than those with the lowest levels (below 12 ng/mL). Medscape Medical News quotes Dr. Pittas as saying, “This study offers several methodological advantages over previous studies. … Our study also includes a large, clinically relevant population at high risk for diabetes, with a substantial proportion of nonwhite participants, which improves the external validity of the results.”

Dr. Pittas adds, however, “This is an observational study and therefore confounding cannot be excluded. It would be premature to recommend vitamin D specifically for prevention of diabetes.”

Most of the evidence focused on a favorable effect in pancreatic beta cells, he said.