Vitamin D in Women With Diabetes

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The critical role that vitamin D plays in bodily functions such as bone growth and immune system regulation are well established. According to new research presented at the recent 73rd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, this nutrient may also help lift mood and lower blood pressure in women who have Type 2 diabetes and depression.

Women with Type 2 diabetes are known to have worse health outcomes than men, possibly due to depression, which affects more than 25% of women with diabetes. (Depression hampers a person’s ability to take self-management measures, such as exercising and eating right.) Research indicates that low vitamin D levels are associated with both symptoms of depression and increased cardiovascular risk.

To determine the effect of vitamin D supplementation on depression and cardiovascular risk factors, researchers recruited 46 women with an average age of 55 who had Type 2 diabetes and low blood levels of vitamin D (18 ng/ml). The women were given a weekly dose of 50,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D for six months. (The recommended dietary allowance of the vitamin for women ages 51–70 is 600 IU per day.)

At the end of the study period, the women’s blood levels of vitamin D had reached an average of 38 ng/ml (the Institute of Medicine considers sufficient levels to be at or above 20 ng/ml) and their moods had improved considerably as measured by a 20-question depression symptom survey (going from moderate depression to no depression). Their systolic blood pressure (the top number) had also dropped from an average of 140.4 mm Hg to 132.5 mm Hg, while their weight had decreased from an average of 226.1 pounds to 223.6 pounds.

“Vitamin D supplementation potentially is an easy and cost-effective therapy, with minimal side effects,” noted lead study author Sue M. Penckofer, PhD, RN. “Larger, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the impact of vitamin D supplementation on depression and major cardiovascular risk factors among women with Type 2 diabetes.”

The investigators have recently received a four-year, $1.49 million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health to conduct such research, and plan to enroll 180 women with Type 2 diabetes, symptoms of depression, and low levels of vitamin D to investigate on a larger scale whether weekly vitamin D supplementation can improve mood and diabetes self-management.

For more information, read the article “Vitamin D Improves Mood and Blood Pressure in Women With Diabetes” or see the study’s abstract on the Web site of the 73rd Scientific Sessions. And to learn more about vitamin D and diabetes, read this article by registered dietitian Julie Lichty Balay.

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