Aims: Vitamin D can influence lipolysis and insulin secretion. A common genetic polymorphism of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), which has been found to be associated with bone mineral density, has been reported to be also associated with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). To test the influence of the VDR polymorphism on fasting glucose in healthy young men before the onset of Type 2 DM, we studied a homogeneous population of aircrew members.
Methods: A total of 1539 individuals were recruited during routine medical qualification for flying duty. Physical activity was assessed in all individuals and categorized into low physical activity (<or= 3 h per week) and high physical activity (> 3 h per week). The BsmI VDR polymorphism was analysed by polymerase chain reaction. On the day of blood testing the individuals were fasting for at least 8 h overnight. Serum glucose was measured within 60 min after sampling venous blood.
Results: In young males with low physical activity (n = 752) gene carriers with the VDR genotype BB (n = 137) have significantly (P < 0.001) higher levels of fasting glucose (5.61 +/- 0.49 mmol/l) than gene carriers with the genotype Bb (n = 370; 5.44 +/- 0.44 mmol/l) or bb (n = 245; 5.38 +/- 0.44 mmol/l). Of BB gene carriers, 47% had fasting glucose levels > 5.55 mmol/l compared with 36% of Bb gene carriers and 34% of bb gene carriers (P = 0.018). This effect is absent in gene carriers with high physical activity (n = 787).
Conclusions: The VDR genotype is associated with altered fasting glucose levels in young men with low physical activity. If this association is confirmed in other populations it might be worthwhile studying the particular benefits of an exercise programme in dependents of the VDR genotype.