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Common Vitamin Could Be Key In Fight Against Type 2 Diabetes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new study shows a common vitamin may help slow or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

It's vitamin D, better known for its role in helping make strong bones.

Type 2 is by far the most common type of diabetes, with more than 30 million people suffering from it in the United States alone. Sufferers make insulin but their bodies don't respond to it and eventually their insulin producing cells become exhausted, causing their blood sugar levels to rise.

That's where a new study suggests vitamin D can help. While it's benefit is far from proven, there are reasons to believe that vitamin D could help with type 2 diabetes.

"There is epidemiological evidence that it's associated with deficiency or at least low levels of vitamin D in blood," Dr. Andrew Stewart from Mt. Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine said. "So there have been a number of studies asking the question asking does vitamin D supplementation prevent or reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes?"

That's what a new study in the prestigious journal, Cell, is working out: What is the possible molecular mechanism for vitamin D's benefit in type 2 diabetes?

Researchers used insulin producing beta cells made from stem cells and found that vitamin D interacts with genes in the nucleus in a way that reduces inflammation in a lab dish and in mice.

"If you then supplement human beings at risk for diabetes, then it would reduce their risk of beta cell failure, beta cell inflammation, and progression to full-blown diabetes in people at risk," Dr. Stewart said.

Dr. Stewart directs the Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute at Mt. Sinai and says while making beta cells more resistant to inflammation might stave off diabetes, it remains to be shown in humans. That's the goal of a major National Institute of Health study, which is giving people at high risk for type 2 diabetes vitamin D supplements.

Results in the study are expected early in 2019.

Many experts think that most of us are somewhat deficient in vitamin D because we're told to avoid the sunlight due to the risk of skin cancer, and we don't get much sun in the winter anyway.

Thankfully, it's easy to make up for a deficiency through the use of supplements. Doctors, as always, warn against going overboard.

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