A recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that giving Vitamin D to adolescents may improve insulin resistance. The study looked at multiple markers for insulin resistance in obese teens over a 6-month time period. The teens who were supplemented with Vitamin D instead of placebo had significantly lower markers of insulin resistance at the end of the 6-month period. This is important because insulin resistance can lead to other health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Vitamin D may improve insulin resistance by helping to reduce inflammation and enhancing the body’s ability to utilize sugars. When blood sugar increases, this normally triggers pancreatic cells to release insulin. It’s insulin’s job to help transport sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells, where it can be used as energy or stored for later. When blood sugar is chronically high, it often leads to chronically elevated insulin. Now, imagine someone constantly knocking at your door. And when you go to open the door, there is a pesky salesperson that you’d rather not talk to. Eventually after this happens day after day, you would probably put in ear plugs or turn up the volume on the music in your house and simply ignore the knocking. This is similar to what the body does when there is chronically high amounts of insulin around–eventually the body stops listening. This situation is called insulin resistance, and it leads to high blood sugar as well as other associated health issues.
There are currently more than 29 million individuals with Type 2 Diabetes in the United States and it is a growing problem in children and teens. The rate of Type 2 Diabetes in adolescents has increased by 30.5 percent between 2001 and 2009. There are many causes for this increase, including lack of access to healthy food and decreased physical activity levels. Compared to previous generations, children today are less likely to be outside playing and more likely to spend their time sitting inside. This may also lead to potential Vitamin D insufficiency, since Vitamin D is naturally synthesized in the skin when it is stimulated by the sun’s UV rays.
Children who are not outside regularly should be tested for Vitamin D deficiency, especially if they are overweight. Vitamin D is often lower in overweight individuals because fat tissue sequesters the vitamin. Multiple studies have shown that, when compared to non-obese persons, it takes approximately twice the dose of Vitamin D to increase serum Vitamin D levels the same amount in people who are obese.
Although Vitamin D does not help someone lose weight, it may help protect against some of the potential health issues that can be associated with being overweight. Vitamin D, along with good nutrition and a healthy exercise program, may help to prevent insulin resistance, diabetes, PCOS, and metabolic syndrome.