Drugs & MedicationsPreventive Medicine


Several years ago, when Vitamin D was first touted as a panacea for nearly everything medical, expectations for it were unrealistically high. It was the fountain of youth! It was the answer to preventing cancer, dementia, and heart disease. Take Vitamin D and you just may live forever. Unfortunately, Vitamin D has not lived up to the hype nor has it been the basis of, or cure for, the diseases it was thought to foment. 

Recently, though, Vitamin D’s reputation received a big boost. A study of the results of several other studies was very favorable for patients with “pre-diabetes.” Pre-diabetes, also called borderline diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, is defined by blood sugar readings that are slightly elevated but not high enough to be in the abnormal range. It’s a very common and confusing situation to those who have it. “Am I diabetic or am I not?”

The report cited here states that patients with “prediabetes” who took a daily dose of vitamin D had a 15% lower risk of developing clinical diabetes. Fifteen percent isn’t overwhelming, but it is a move in the right direction. Of course there also a lot of other things, more difficult to accomplish, that have the same or better effect. But taking a gel-cap once a day is an easy thing to do.

Diagnosing diabetes is done by doing 3 tests: the fasting blood sugar, the 2-hour post meal blood sugar, and/or the Hemoglobin A1C, a calculation of one’s average blood sugar for 3 months. Prediabetics have fasting blood sugars between 100 and 125. 70% of prediabetics go on to develop Type II Diabetes. That means nearly three-fourths of prediabetics become full-blown Type II diabetics. I think the gray areas that represent prediabetes should be eliminated. I don’t think “prediabetes” is real entity. Either you’re diabetic with a sugar >100 or you’re normal with a sugar <100. If your pancreas doesn’t work well enough to keep your blood sugar under control, you’re a diabetic.

This study included almost 4200 people whose blood sugars were in the gray, prediabetes zone. They were all given 4000 IU daily, the upper limit of tolerability for Vitamin D, for 3 years. None of the participants developed kidney stones, high blood or urine levels of calcium, or died. In the group of people who received Vitamin D, there was a 15% lower risk of developing Type II Diabetes or an absolute risk reduction of 3.3% per year.  

“Very high dose vitamin D therapy might prevent type 2 diabetes in some patients but may also cause harm.” That means if a person can tolerate a high daily dose of vitamin D, he/she is likely to benefit from it by reducing the the risk of converting from prediabetes to diabetes.  

All the hype about vitamin D has not panned out since it was touted so highly. It is mostly helpful for preventing and treating osteoporosis, but it also strengthens the immune system, lowers the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and lowers blood pressure. It is purported to prevent certain types of cancer, boost mood, and contribute to weight loss. The new information reported here increases vitamin D’s credibility by claiming it reduces the risk of developing diabetes. The decrease is only 15%, but it is a clinically significant reduction.

Reference: MEDICAL NEWS IN BRIEF: Meta-analysis: Vitamin D Therapy Reduced Type 2 Diabetes. JAMA 2023 Mar 7;329(9):703.

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