Vitamin D may lower diabetes risk in obese children and adolescents, study finds

March 26, 2013

Childhood and adolescent obesity rates in the United States have increased dramatically in the past three decades. Being obese puts individuals at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, a disease in which individuals have too much sugar in their blood. Now, University of Missouri researchers found vitamin D supplements can help obese children and teens control their blood-sugar levels, which may help them stave off the disease.

"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 at MU. "We saw a decrease in , which means better , despite no changes in body weight, dietary intake or physical activity."

Peterson and her colleagues studied 35 pre-diabetic obese children and adolescents 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. randomly were assigned either a high-dose vitamin D supplement or a placebo that they took daily for six months. Those who took the supplement became vitamin D sufficient and lowered 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 ."

Vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and nerves and enters bodies through , diet or supplements. Vitamin D insufficiency is common; however, it can be more detrimental to those who are obese, Peterson said.

"What makes vitamin D insufficiency different in obese individuals is that they process vitamin D about half as efficiently as normal-weight people," Peterson said. "The vitamin gets stored in their fat tissues, which keeps it from being processed. This means obese individuals need to take in about twice as much vitamin D as their lean peers to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D."

Adding vitamin D supplements is a natural, inexpensive way to help obese children and teens decrease their odds of developing diabetes and avoid the side effects that might come from taking prescriptions to control their blood sugar, Peterson said.

Peterson is the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the School of Medicine jointly administer the department.

Explore further: Obese adolescents lacking vitamin D

More information: The study, "Correcting vitamin D insufficiency improves insulin sensitivity in obese adolescents: a randomized controlled trial," was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Related Stories

Obese adolescents lacking vitamin D

April 27, 2011

A new study from Hasbro Children's Hospital has found that most obese adolescents are lacking in vitamin D. The researchers call for increased surveillance of vitamin D levels in this population and for further studies to ...

Obese moms risk having babies with low vitamin D

January 7, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Women who are obese at the start of their pregnancy may be passing on insufficient levels of vitamin D to their babies, according to a new Northwestern Medicine® study.

Recommended for you

Major fall in diabetes-related amputations since the 1990s

November 22, 2015

A major new study has found a significant reduction in diabetes-related amputations since the mid-1990s, credited to improvements in diabetes care over this period. The research is published in Diabetologia (the journal of ...

Blocking immune cell treats new type of age-related diabetes

November 18, 2015

Diabetes is often the result of obesity and poor diet choices, but for some older adults the disease might simply be a consequence of aging. New research has discovered that diabetes—or insulin resistance—in aged, lean ...

Bacteria may cause type 2 diabetes

June 1, 2015

Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers ...

Engineered hot fat implants reduce weight gain in mice

August 20, 2015

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a novel way to engineer the growth and expansion of energy-burning "good" fat, and then found that this fat helped reduce weight gain and lower blood glucose ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.