Vitamin D sun
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Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that influences virtually every cell in your body, which is why maintaining a healthy level is so important. Low vitamin D levels are widely known to harm your bones, leading them to become thin, brittle, soft or misshapen.

But vitamin D is equally important for your heart, brain, immune function and much more. For example, there's an important connection between insufficient vitamin D and insulin resistance and/or diabetes, both type 11and type 2.

Vitamin D Deficiency May Influence Your Type 2 Diabetes Risk

According to recent research, vitamin D deficiency affects your glucose metabolism and may actually be more closely linked to diabetes than obesity. In a study of 118 people, those with low vitamin D levels were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, regardless of their weight.

Among obese people, those without metabolic disorders had higher levels of vitamin D than those with such disorders, and among lean people, those with metabolic disorders were more likely to have low levels of vitamin D. According to one of the study's authors:2
"The study suggests that vitamin D deficiency and obesity interact synergistically to heighten the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The average person may be able to reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough outdoor activity."
It's not the first time vitamin D has been shown to play a role in diabetes. One Indian study found that vitamin D and calcium supplementation, in combination with exercise, can prevent pre-diabetes from progressing into full-blown diabetes.

For every unit increase in vitamin D levels, the risk of progression to diabetes in people with pre-diabetes went down by 8 percent.3

Another study published in 2013 found that type 2 diabetics given 50,000 IUs of oral vitamin D3 per week for eight weeks experienced "a meaningful reduction" in fasting plasma glucose and insulin. Other research showing this link includes but is not limited to the following:
  • Animal studies have shown vitamin D is a foundational factor necessary for normal insulin secretion5,6and that vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity7,8
  • One study involving nearly 5,680 individuals with impaired glucose tolerance showed that vitamin D supplementation increased insulin sensitivity by 54 percent9
  • The mechanisms by which vitamin D reduces insulin resistance include its effect on calcium and phosphorus metabolism and by upregulating the insulin receptor gene10
Vitamin D May Lower Risk of Hyperglycemia in Those Taking Atypical Antipsychotics

Certain drugs can raise your risk of metabolic dysfunction. For example, statin drugs can trigger drug-induced diabetes. Atypical antipsychotics such as quetiapine, a bipolar medication, have also been linked to an increased risk of hyperglycemia and diabetes.

In the latter case, research suggests vitamin D3 may counteract these effects. As reported by The American Journal of Managed Care:11
"Atypical antipsychotics have long been associated with an increased risk of hyperglycemia — which can lead to new-onset diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis, coma and even death.

Some proposed mechanisms for this effect include weight gain, decreased insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells and insulin resistance.

To determine whether there were any medications that could decrease this likelihood of hyperglycemia, researchers analyzed the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting (FAERS) system — a database that logs self-reported adverse effects or medication errors submitted by patients.

By cross-referencing atypical antipsychotics and hyperglycemia, the study authors found that patients who had been simultaneously prescribed to take vitamin D and quetiapine were somehow less likely to have hyperglycemia."
Subsequent animal studies produced similar results. Mice given vitamin D and quetiapine had significantly lower blood sugar levels compared to mice given quetiapine alone. According to lead author Takuya Nagashima, vitamin D inhibits quetiapine from reducing an enzyme that causes hyperglycemia.

Based on these results, the authors suggest combining antipsychotics with vitamin D supplementation to "efficaciously safeguard against antipsychotic-induced hyperglycemia accompanied by insulin resistance."

Other Benefits of Vitamin D


Researchers have pointed out that raising levels of vitamin D among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly 1 million lives throughout the world each year.

Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half, or more. Recent research reveals raising your serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D to 40 ng/ml can slash your risk of invasive cancers by 67 percent!

In the interview above, Dr. Michael Holick — a well-known vitamin D researcher — expands on these and many other health benefits of vitamin D. For instance, optimizing your vitamin D levels can help protect against:

Mercola table
What's the Best Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Level?

There is no doubt that vitamin D is imperative for good health and disease prevention. It may even help counteract some of the deleterious metabolic effects caused of certain drugs. But there's no lack of controversy when it comes to the issue of how to optimize your vitamin D. Most of the researchers specializing in vitamin D agree that sensible sun exposure is the ideal way though.

First of all, vitamin D3 supplements do not confer the identical effects as the vitamin D your skin generates in response to UV exposure. Secondly, sun exposurehas additional health benefits that are unrelated to vitamin D production.

For example, UVA exposure produces nitric oxide (NO), which has a blood pressure-lowering effect. In fact, the entire solar spectrum is important for optimal health. We're not dependent solely on the narrowband wavelength of about 295 nanometers (nm), which is where vitamin D is made.

However, unless you make a concerted effort, chances are you're simply not getting enough sun exposure to raise your vitamin D level. As noted in a recent British study, adolescent Britons are not getting enough sun exposure even in the middle of summer to elevate their vitamin D to a healthy level, prompting the authors to suggest changes to the U.K.'s vitamin D guidelines.

As reported by Endocrine Today,14 "more than one-quarter of the adolescents in the study had inadequate vitamin D levels even during summer, the period when participants spent the most time outdoors." According to the authors:
"Current U.K. national guidance on vitamin D acquisition assumes those aged 4 to 64 years gain their vitamin D requirements from sunlight alone, thus there is no recommended nutrient intake. Meanwhile, substantial proportions of the global population, including the U.K., are reported to have low vitamin D status, and rickets has returned as a clinical concern ...
As U.K. current sun exposure patterns do not provide an adequate source of vitamin D, amendments are required to recommendations on vitamin D acquisition in this age group. While wider skin surface area exposure to sunlight might safely increase vitamin D status, oral vitamin D supplements may be beneficial during this critical time for bone development."
When to Take a Vitamin D3 Supplement

Indeed, while sun exposure is the ideal route, it can be difficult for many to achieve an optimal vitamin D level this way. Your lifestyle, location, age, ethnicity, time of year, weather conditions and a number of other factors influence how much vitamin D your skin will make in response to sun exposure. The fact that vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency is widespread even in sundrenched areas like India attests to this difficulty.

In some cases, making changes to your routine in order to get more regular sun exposure may do the trick. Key points to remember is that you need to expose large areas of skin to the sun, and on a frequent basis (ideally daily). However, under ideal conditions you may not need more than a few minutes of exposure.

The worst thing you could do is to bake in the sun for hours on end on the weekends. You definitely want to avoid burning your skin, as this will only cause skin damage that could potentially increase your risk for skin cancer.


Comment: There is very little evidence to back up the claim that sun exposure causes skin cancer and research has actually shown that sunlight prevents it.

Avoiding the sun is deadlier than basking in it:
"What is lacking in every scientific study ever linking sun exposure to cancer is any evidence that sunlight is actually the cause or that it may shorten our lives. Ask a dermatologist about the evidence that sunshine raises your risk of dying and there will be an embarrassing silence. After a century of so many reports sunshine and skin cancer, there is not one that has conclusively proven that the sun is the culprit. In fact, there is increasing evidence that keeping out of the sun may be killing you -- and in more ways than you think."

"A survey of 30,000 Swedish women recruited in 1990 and questioned about their sun-seeking behaviour found that the more they had sunbathed, the less likely they were to have died 20 years later. In fact those who did the most sunbathing were half as likely to be dead as those who had avoided the sun entirely. The authors calculate that 3 percent of deaths in Sweden are due to insufficient sun exposure. Other research backs this up. Another Scandinavian study of 40,000 women found that those who went on the most sunbathing holidays were least likely to have died 15 years later."
Don't believe your dermatologist -- sunlight prevents cancer:
"A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed that women who had at least 21 hours a week exposure to the sun's UV rays in their teens were 29 percent less likely to get cancer than those getting under an hour a day.

For women who spent the most time out side in their forties and fifties, the risk fell by 26 percent and for those above 60, sunshine halved their chances of a tumour."

If sensible sun exposure is either not feasible or isn't sufficient to raise your vitamin D to a healthy level, then taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement is a wise choice. If you decide to supplement with vitamin D please consider using one that also has vitamin K2, as it works synergistically with vitamin D to maximize the benefits.

The only way to know how your sun exposure is affecting your vitamin D level is to get your vitamin D tested. I recommend doing this twice a year, in January and June/July, to get a reading on your lowest and highest levels. This will tell you whether you might be in need of a supplement. It will also guide you in terms of dosage.

In short, your ideal dosage is one that will help you maintain a clinically relevant vitamin D level of 40 to 60 ng/ml year-round. For some this may be 2,000 IUs a day. For others, it could be 8,000 IUs a day or more.

According to one large-scale study, optimal Vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by as much as 60 percent. Keeping your levels optimized can help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers.

How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health

Is it any wonder then that no matter what disease or condition is investigated, vitamin D appears to play a crucial role? This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. Dr. Robert Heaney is the research director of GrassrootsHealth and is part of the design of the D*action Project as well as analysis of the research findings.

GrassrootsHealth shows how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.

In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)

As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More: Where Do We Go From Here?


Comment: The answer to this question should be fairly intuitive... Go outside and expose yourself to the sunlight! Consider that humanity evolved and developed the ability thrive in an outdoor environment that likely involved long periods of sunlight exposure. From an evolutionary perspective, it is counter-intuitive to postulate that this is somehow detrimental to our health and well being. In contrast, a sunlight deficient indoor-based lifestyle is a very recent development in human history, and one which is now being shown to have serious consequences for the health of the population at large.


GrassrootsHealth is now undertaking a new project entitled the Protect our Children NOW! (POC) project. The aim of this project is to acquire participation of at least 500 pregnant women in a community, and to increase their serum levels to the suggested level of at least 40 ng/ml based on the clinical trial by Hollis & Wagner.

In addition, the project will take these results in two years and "march" on the various institutions in the state/government/to the March of Dimes, to demand that action be taken to protect the world's next generation.

Among other items, the projects expected impact is likely to be a reduction in preterm births, (in some cases up to a 50 percent reduction). The project already has the blessing of the scientists, the physicians at the Medical University of South Carolina (which are implementing it in their practices) and even the insurance company.

Any community can implement this and make a difference for themselves and others. For further information contact Jen Aliano, Project Manager, at jen@grassrootshealth.org.

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