Vitamin A May Fight Diabetes

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

The rise in type 2 diabetes has left scientists baffled. It’s estimated that 2 out of 5 Americans will develop the disease during their lifetime.1

Obesity and a lack of physical activity are known risk factors, but other factors may play a role as well.

A new study suggests that vitamin A deficiencies may even be a potential culprit. The results were published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.2

Lack of Vitamin A May Increase Blood Sugar Levels

Vitamin A is needed for the development of beta cells in a fetus, the cells that produce insulin in the human body. However, it’s unknown if vitamin A continues to influence beta cell function into adulthood. Scientists sought to investigate the relationship with this new study.

In the study, mice were deprived of vitamin A in their diets. This lead to the death of beta cells, decreased insulin production, and high blood sugar levels. In addition, there were other physiological changes present in the pancreas similar to what occurs in diabetes.

When vitamin A was reintroduced in the diet, the number of beta cells normalized (resulting in fewer dying ones), insulin levels increased, and blood sugar levels decreased.2

In advanced cases of type 2 diabetes, beta cells die, requiring the need for injected insulin. The findings of this study may help to find future treatments for diabetics. It also stresses the importance of vitamin A in the human diet.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin A?

Vitamin A levels are maintained in the body through the ingestion of beta carotene, its natural precursor. It is found in many food sources such as pumpkin, leafy greens, carrots, sweet potato, and apricots.

You’ll usually find beta carotene in foods that have deep green or orange colors. Eat them!

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/newsroom/now-2-out-of-every-5-americans-expected-to-develop-type-2-diabetes-during-their-lifetime.pdf. Accessed January 21, 2015. 
  2. J Biol Chem. 2014 Dec 1.

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