Diabetes is a deadly scourge.
[My intention is to educate you about diabetes and its prevention. Many of us are pre-diabetic and can take measures to insure we do not develop type II diabetes.]
It is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb
amputations and blindness. And it is a major cause of
heart disease and stroke.
And diabetes is an epidemic.
Because type 2 diabetes is closely associated with
obesity (80% of people with type 2 diabetes are
overweight), we have a diabetes epidemic worldwide that
is following right behind the obesity epidemic that you
have been hearing so much about.
In 2010 25.6 million Americans, or 11.3% of the
population, over the age of 20 had type 2 diabetes.
That’s up from 8.3% of the population in the 2005-2008
database, and the prevalence of diabetes in the 20+ age
group in this country is predicted to exceed 15% by
However, it is not type 2 diabetes that I am focusing
on today. Instead I will talk about a related condition
But first, a bit of biochemistry (my favorite subject).
What is pre-diabetes and how do we develop it?
When we become overweight our tissues become insulin
resistant. Initially our pancreas responds by pumping
out more insulin to keep our blood sugar levels near
normal. It also starts releasing fatty acids into the
At this stage our blood sugar levels are pretty well
under control, but our blood levels of insulin and
fatty acids are higher than normal. We are
assymptomatic for the most part, so many of us never
realize that we have a problem.
And lots of us are pre-diabetic!
The National Institute of Health estimates that 35% of
US adults in the 20+ age group and 50% of US adults in
the 65+ age group have pre-diabetes – and most of them
don’t even know it.
That is unfortunate because people with pre-diabetes
are at increased risk of heart disease, strokes and
certain types of cancer. And there is a high
probability that those people with pre-diabetes will go
on to develop type 2 diabetes a few years down the
That’s because high levels of both fatty acids and
insulin damage the pancreas. So every year that an
individual does nothing to reverse the pre-diabetic
condition, their pancreas loses more of its capacity to
Eventually, the pancreas can no longer produce enough
insulin to overcome the insulin resistance, and the
individual develops full blown type 2 diabetes.
With 35% of the population already pre-diabetic – and
most of them not knowing that they have it, anything
that we can do to prevent pre-diabetes from
progressing to type 2 diabetes is big news.
That’s why today’s study (Mitri et al, American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, 94: 486-494, 2011) is so
The scientists directing the study enrolled 92 adults
with an average age of 57 and a BMI of 32 (anything
over 30 is considered obese). The subjects were given
2,000 IU/day of vitamin D and/or 800 mg/day of calcium
in various combinations (placebo, D alone, calcium
alone and calcium + D).
They did not assess for pre-diabetes in this group, but
given the age and BMI of the group it is fairly safe to
assume that most of them had pre-diabetes.
At the end of 16 weeks the group receiving the placebo
had a 14% decline in the ability of their pancreas to
secrete insulin – about what you would expect for
individuals with pre-diabetes.
Calcium had no effect on pancreatic function.
However, the groups receiving 2.000 IU/day of vitamin D
had a 26% improvement in the ability of their pancreas
to secrete insulin.
So what are the take home lessons for you?
#1) The most important message that I can give you is
that if you are overweight, you are probably already
pre-diabetic even if you have not received a formal
You are likely already at significantly increased risk
of heart disease, stroke and cancer – and you are
likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the not too
YOU SHOULD TAKE ACTION NOW!
#2) The authors of this study were careful to point out
that their study did not show that vitamin D alone
could reduce the progression of pre-diabetes to type 2
diabetes. That study has yet to be done.
However, there are several published clinical studies
showing that lifestyle changes (weight loss, exercise
and a healthy diet supplying all of the essential
nutrients) can significantly reduce the progression of
pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes.
So if you want to act now to reduce your risk of
becoming another statistic, the proven path is clear.
#3) While I consider it unlikely that vitamin D will be
a “magic bullet” for preventing type 2 diabetes, this
study does highlight yet another potential benefit of
making sure that your intake of vitamin D is optimal.
To Your Success!
Dr. Stephen G Chaney
If you have questions or comments about this Tip from the Professor,
please give me a call, or email. Shaklee makes an excellent Vita D3.
Betsy Bell’s Health4U
206 933 1889