By now you probably know about the ability of vitamin D supplements to decrease cancer risk. The statistics show that in order to have that advantage, you need to take enough vitamin D to get your blood levels up around 70 ng/ml. But did you know that vitamin D is also important for blood sugar control? A new study is emphasizing that effect of vitamin D. And is also giving us an idea of what the ideal blood level of vitamin D is to help maintain blood sugar control.
Researchers recently looked at 239 postmenopausal women. Each of the women was either overweight or obese. All of them were sedentary. But none of them had diabetes. There were 83 black women and 156 white women. The researchers measured their levels of vitamin D, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, insulin, insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), IGF-1, parathyroid hormone (PTH), aerobic fitness, body composition, subcutaneous abdominal and visceral fat, and blood pressure. They were looking to discover if there was some kind of level of vitamin D below which these measurements would become abnormal. Here's what they found.
Higher vitamin D levels were associated with lower blood sugars, lower insulin levels, lower amounts of visceral and abdominal fat, lower levels of triglycerides, and lower levels of PTH. I'll talk about PTH in a second. But just how high a level of vitamin D do you have to have in your blood to have all these advantages? Not much. A blood level of only 26 ng/ml did the job. But what about the black vs. white issue?
It is well known that vitamin D is created through the action of sunlight on the skin. But there has been some concern that because of the difference in skin pigment, black people might have a different need for vitamin D than whites. The researchers did not find this to be true. Both blacks and whites required the same minimal levels of vitamin D in their blood — 26 ng/ml.
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Everyone should have their vitamin D level checked. And it's interesting to note that although the level has to be up around 70 ng/ml to reduce cancer risk, a much lower level is needed to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Oh, and one more thing.
In case you wondered about PTH, here's the scoop. PTH has been linked to cardiovascular disease. That's true even when the levels are in the normal range. The higher your levels are, the more likely you are to get cardiovascular disease. So by lowering your PTH level by having a vitamin D level over 26 ng/ml, you will also lower your cardiovascular risk. Not bad for one nutrient!
Most people need to take 5,000 IU daily to keep their levels in the 70 ng/ml area. You can purchase a 5,000 IU vitamin D pill by following this link.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Sorkin JD, Vasaitis TS, Streeten E, et al. Evidence for threshold effects of 25-hydroxyvitamin D on glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in black and white obese postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):734-42.