Vitamin D supplements have been found to help obese children and teens control their blood sugar levels markedly, which may help them stave off diabetes, new research shows.
The study, reported by University of Missouri researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicated vitamin D supplements lowered blood glucose levels nearly as much as a prescription medicine, when given to children at risk of developing the metabolic disorder.
"By increasing vitamin D intake alone, we got a response that was nearly as powerful as what we have seen using a prescription drug," said Catherine Peterson, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU. "We saw a decrease in insulin levels, which means better glucose control, despite no changes in body weight, dietary intake or physical activity."
For the study, Peterson and her colleagues studied 35 pre-diabetic obese children and adolescents — those whose blood sugar levels are borderline high, but not quite in the diabetic range — who were undergoing treatment in the MU Adolescent Diabetic Obesity Program. All of those in the study had insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels and had similar diets and activity levels.
Study participants randomly were given either a high-dose vitamin D supplement or an inactive placebo for six months. Those who took the supplement were able to raise their vitamin D levels and lower the amount of insulin in their blood.
"The vitamin D dosage we gave to the obese adolescents in our study is not something I would recommend for everyone," Peterson said. "For clinicians, the main message from this research is to check the vitamin D status of their obese patients, because they're likely to have insufficient amounts.
“Adding vitamin D supplements to their diets may be an effective addition to treating obesity and its associated insulin resistance."
Vitamin D from sun exposure, diet, and supplements helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and nerves.
Childhood and adolescent obesity rates in the United States have increased dramatically in recent decades, putting kids at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
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