Should You Talk To The Doctor About Vitamin D Supplements?

Dr. James W. Russell checks the vitamin D level in all his patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy and finds over 90 percent have low levels. He puts them on vitamin D supplements.

It is “highly likely,” Dr. Russell points out that low vitamin D predisposes people to developing diabetes and speeds the worsening of symptoms early in the disease. This also affects the progression of neuropathy. There is no hard evidence proving this, but convincing data is piling up.

“Our approach is that we look at factors that may be increasing the risk for...worsening complications,” said Dr. Russell, professor of neurology, anatomy, and neurobiology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. “If you can make a 5% difference by doing this [taking a vitamin D supplement], that could be very important.”

Convincing Data

The convincing data supporting Dr. Russell’s observations about vitamin D and diabetes include recent research by Dinesh Selvarajah, MD, of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.

After adjusting for age, activity, and sunlight exposure, Dr. Selvarajah tested the vitamin D levels in three groups of people - one group with painful neuropathy, one with painless neuropathy, and a third group of healthy volunteers.

The study results suggest a lack of vitamin D plays a significant role in the development of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, particularly painful neuropathy, and may be a viable part of neuropathy treatment.

Benefits of Vitamin D

While randomized clinical trials concerning vitamin D and neuropathy are not yet available, Dr. Russell points out there is no harm in people supplementing now.

“Little things like this make a big difference in the long term. If you supplement with vitamin D for ten years - we don’t have these data, but it’s very likely - if you compared the person who was supplemented vs the one who wasn’t, you’d find a significant difference,” said Russell.

Getting adequate vitamin D is also beneficial for cardiovascular and immune system health, both concerns for people with diabetes. Vitamin D helps reduce heart attack, stroke, arterial hardening, and hypertension, and helps the body fight infection.

Is Your Vitamin D Low?

If your physician is not a diabetes specialist, he or she may be unaware of the probable connection between vitamin D levels and diabetes progression. However, your doctor can test your level of vitamin D and discuss taking supplements, if you are interested.

People can also purchase a do-it-yourself vitamin D testing kit through Mercola.com (shop.mercola.com). Purchasers have the option of enrolling in an international study concerning the effects of vitamin D deficiency.

Source: Mercola; Medscape
Photo credit: Colin Dunn

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