Vitamin D and diabetes

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Jul;121(1-2):425-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2010.03.042. Epub 2010 Mar 18.


On the basis of evidence from animal and human studies, vitamin D has emerged as a potential risk modifier for type 1 and type 2 diabetes (type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes). Vitamin D is thought to have both direct (through activation of the vitamin D receptor) and indirect (via regulation of calcium homeostasis) effects on various mechanisms related to the pathophysiology of both types of diabetes, including pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction, impaired insulin action and systemic inflammation. Observational case-control studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy or early childhood is associated with reduced risk of incident type 1 diabetes. There are no trials on the effect of vitamin D (ergocalciferol or cholecalciferol) on type 1 diabetes. An association between vitamin D insufficiency and incident type 2 diabetes has been reported in longitudinal observational studies, but the association is not consistent. Results from small underpowered trials and post-hoc analyses of data from larger trials designed for bone-specific outcomes show no effect of vitamin D supplementation on glycemia in healthy adults but vitamin D may retard the progression to diabetes in adults with glucose intolerance. Because vitamin D is an excellent marker of general health status, the positive results reported in some observational studies might reflect unmeasured and unaccounted confounding. Therefore, the hypothesis that vitamin D may modify diabetes risk needs to be confirmed in trials specifically designed for that purpose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*


  • Insulin
  • Vitamin D
  • Glucose