Preventing diabetes can save your life

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in North America today. Nearly 10% of Canadians have diabetes and another 20% have ‘prediabetes,’ or are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes can be devastating if you don’t take it seriously.

People with diabetes are hospitalized more, have more cardiovascular disease, depression, kidney disease and kidney failure – all of which can be fatal.

Pure North wants to help you control and prevent diabetes and other prevalent chronic diseases. It’s why we exist.

Vitamin D is one way to help prevent and possibly control diabetes. Research studies, called meta-analyses, that look at all of the evidence show that vitamin D plays a role. Making sure you have all the nutrients you need may help prevent your system from breaking down and developing diseases and illnesses like diabetes.

For this reason, we want to help you obtain optimal vitamin D levels.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you already know that it’s all about how good you are at controlling your blood sugar level and how your body responds to the insulin you produce.

All of the cells and tissues in your body use sugar for fuel, for energy. When you have diabetes, your body can’t use the sugar. Insulin is the key. If all of your cells have doors, insulin opens the door.

In type 2 diabetes, it's like you have no key. The sugar can’t get into your cells, meaning that it stays in your bloodstream, building up to the point it can cause damage. Type 2 diabetes is a result of your body not responding to insulin.

Diabetes is diagnosed by your inability to control blood sugar.

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People at risk have Prediabetes

Many people also have pre-diabetes – indicators that they are at risk because their blood sugar is too high. These people should take immediate steps to control the advance of the disease, before it is too late.

If you aren’t sure, you owe it to yourself to take a simple blood test to establish if you are at risk, or already have diabetes.

Hemoglobin A1c is a measure of how well your blood sugar has been controlled in the last three months or so. Hemoglobin A1c can be used to determine if you are at risk, prediabetic, or if you have diabetes.

You are more at risk if you are overweight or obese, have a family history, had diabetes while you were pregnant, have a sedentary lifestyle, or are one of certain ethnic groups.

What are the symptoms?

In many cases, people just don’t know. Prediabetes can go undetected and type 2 diabetes, even once present, can be a silent disease. Getting tested is the only sure way to know.

Common symptoms include increased thirst or hunger, excessive fatigue, increased urination (especially at night), difficulty healing or blurry vision. But the absence of these symptoms doesn’t mean you are healthy. Many people have no apparent symptoms at all.

What can I do?

If you are diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, your health care professional will talk to you about diet, exercise and prescription medicines.

You should also learn about recent research that shows that Vitamin D may play an important role in preventing diabetes and helping people to control diabetes.

Vitamin D?

Yes. While more research is required, and is being done, low vitamin D levels have been shown to be a risk factor for diabetes. On top of this, vitamin D plays a role in keeping us healthy and preventing chronic diseases of many kinds.

Research suggests that Vitamin D plays a role in preventing and reducing insulin resistance. People who are deficient in vitamin D exhibit more insulin resistance. Achieving “optimal” vitamin D levels can improve the cells’ response to insulin.

The problem is, most people don’t get enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is metabolized by the body from the UV rays of sunshine. We get almost none from food.

The challenge is that we live in Canada. For six to eight months, our bodies get no UV rays at all, in part because we are bundled up from head to toe, and in part because the angle of the sun doesn’t deliver those UV rays. Even in the summer, most people block UV rays with sunscreen – a sensible precaution, but it also prevents vitamin D metabolism.

What’s more is that we now know that if you have a higher BMI, you need more vitamin D to get to that “optimal” level. Other reasons you may be vitamin D deficient: older people don’t efficiently make Vitamin D from the sun and people with darker skin colour need more exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as people with lighter skin colours. Fortunately, Vitamin D is very inexpensive, so taking supplements is a good idea.

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How Much Vitamin D would be Helpful?

We encourage you to consider the facts before you decide.

Natural vitamin D levels are what we would make if we were exposed to the sun regularly without sunscreen and without “vitamin D winters” – the months the sun doesn’t have UVB.

Research shows that natural levels of vitamin D, in people who live in areas where they can make vitamin D all year long and don’t cover up or wear sunscreen, are on average around 120 nmol/L (measured as serum 25-hydroxyvitmain D). That means the right dose of vitamin D will get you to the optimal level. But everyone responds to vitamin D supplements differently. That means the best way to find out how much vitamin D you need to take involves measuring blood levels.

At Pure North we do just that. We give you the knowledge you need to make that choice.

Should I be worried about taking too much vitamin D?

Very rarely vitamin D toxicity can occur. However, you can take a significant quantity of vitamin D before you run the risk of having any side effects.

Health Canada says you can take up to 4,000 IU (International Units) per day without any risk at all. In fact, most people get more than twice that amount from the summertime sun in under half an hour.

There is no downside to taking vitamin D up to reasonable limits. Vitamin D is very inexpensive and can be purchased at the grocery store, warehouse store like Costco, or your local pharmacy.

Pure North believes, and many researchers have shown, that you can safely take 10,000 IU per day. We do recommend being under the care of a health care practitioner, who is able to measure blood levels, if you are interested in taking that quantity.

Do you Want to Talk About It?

Interested in considering vitamin D as part of your diabetes strategy? There is no obligation if you want to just talk to us and discuss the options. Do your homework. Take a look at the research. Then bring us your questions.

We don’t manufacture vitamin D supplements or make any money selling them. We are a not-for-profit organization.

Our interest is in your health, not the supplement industry. But we do believe that adequate levels of vitamin D do no harm, and quite the opposite, they may do considerable good.

Research and References

Pham, Truong-Minh, John Paul Ekwaru, Sarah A. Loehr, Paul J. Veugelers.“ The Relationship of Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Insulin Resistance among Nondiabetic Canadians: A Longitudinal Analysis of Participants of a Preventive Health Program” in Population Health Intervention Research Unit, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada; (2015) PLoS ONE 10(10): e0141081. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141081

This study, conducted using data collected by Pure North from its patients (with their consent), measured insulin resistance for 5,730 participants. The results showed that over half of those that were most at risk for insulin resistance were also vitamin D deficient. Simply put, increasing vitamin D levels decreases the risk for insulin resistance and the risk of developing diabetes.

Teresa Martin, RD, CDE, LD and R. Keith Campell, RPh, CDE, FASHP. “Vitamin D and Diabetes”. Diabetes Spectrum 2011 May; 24(2): 113-118.

Afsaneh Talaei, Mahnaz Mohamadi and Zahra Adgi, “The effect of Vitamin D on insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes”. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome20135:8 DOI: 10.1186/1758-5996-5-8. Feb 26 2013

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