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Ask Dana: Diabetes and Vitamin D

QUESTION:

Dear Dana,

My doctor just told me that I should be taking vitamin D supplements. Sadly, I didn’t get a lot of instruction about how to do this.  I’m not sure why or how much I should be taking.  There seem to be quite a few varieties of vitamin D supplements and it really confused me.  Can you give me some direction on this?

– Allison Mahoney
Fayetteville, Arkansas

ANSWER:

Dear Allison,

With summer in full swing, it is a perfect time to discuss the role of Vitamin D in maintaining your health, especially if you are living with diabetes.

What does Vitamin D do for your body?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including bone health, immune system support, and even glucose metabolism. For individuals with diabetes, maintaining optimal levels of Vitamin D is particularly crucial, as it may help improve insulin sensitivity and support better blood sugar control.

vitamin-DWhat are the sources of Vitamin D?

One of the best sources of Vitamin D is the sun. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces Vitamin D naturally. Generally, 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure three times a week can provide enough vitamin D. However, factors such as your geographical location, the time of day of exposure, time of year, and sunscreen use can influence the amount of Vitamin D synthesized by your body.  Most important is how well your skin absorbs and converts sunlight to vitamin D.  Many people develop thinner skin as they age and this prevents optimum vitamin D absorption.

For many people, especially those who have limited sun exposure or have difficulty synthesizing Vitamin D, supplementation is an effective solution. However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian before starting any supplementation regimen to determine the appropriate dosage based on your individual health needs.

Specifically, you need to know your starting baseline of vitamin D based on your blood work.  Recent National Institutes of Health updates recommend vitamin D levels over 30ng/mL  However, many functional doctors and medical specialists recommend higher vitamin D levels than the traditional 30ng/ML.

As such, a general guideline of recommendations is not always accurate for the individual.

What is the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin D for individuals with diabetes?

However, the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin D for individuals with diabetes from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a daily supplement of 1,000-2,000 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D for most adults with diabetes to maintain adequate levels.

Adults over 65 years may benefit from higher supplementation doses, often ranging from 1,000-4,000 IU per day, depending on their existing Vitamin D levels.  And, as mentioned earlier, those individuals who do not have regular sunlight exposure may need to supplement with higher dosages.

food sources of vitamin d

When selecting a Vitamin D supplement, there are a few essential factors to consider:

  1. Form of Vitamin D: Look for Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplements, as this is the most active and readily absorbed form of Vitamin D compared to Vitamin D2.
  2. Quality: Choose a reputable brand or manufacturer to ensure the supplement meets quality standards and is free from contaminants.
  3. Dosage: Match the supplement dosage with your healthcare provider’s recommendation to avoid taking too much or too little.
  4. Combination Supplements: If you are already taking multivitamins or other supplements, be mindful of the total amount of Vitamin D you are consuming to avoid exceeding safe levels.
  5. Foods Rich in Vitamin D: Incorporate Vitamin D-rich foods into your meals, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), fortified dairy products, and egg yolks. Engaging in outdoor activities and getting moderate sun exposure (with appropriate sun protection) can also contribute to maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about Vitamin D supplementation or managing your diabetes, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare team or reach out to any of our registered dietitians on our IDS team.

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