Once known mainly for its role in supporting bone health, Vitamin D is now the fastest growing nutrient in the United States market, playing a pivotal role in several metabolic functions of the body and supporting a range of health conditions. In response to the influx of science-supporting health benefits, consumer interest in Vitamin D has been rising as evidenced by skyrocketing market sales. Frost & Sullivan reports that Vitamin D sales increased by 127 percent in 2008 and 112 percent in the first quarter of 2009.1
Enthusiastic interest in Vitamin D continues to thrive. In November 2010, the Institutes of Medicine added credence to the distinct benefits of Vitamin D by increasing the recommended daily intake of this essential vitamin and hormone. Yet statistics show that Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent, with 41.6 percent of the adult population showing a deficiency, according to a survey reported Nutrition Research (2011).2 Supplement business owners might want to consider this the ideal time to manufacture vitamins, not only to meet this vital nutritional gap, but also to satisfy the rising market for nutritional supplements that help regulate insulin in which Vitamin D plays a crucial role.
Diabetes: Prevalence and Risk Factors
Diabetes, a chronic disease, is marked by insufficient insulin production (type 1 diabetes) or the body’s inability to use the insulin it produces effectively (type 2 diabetes). Insulin is an important hormone that the body requires to regulate healthy blood sugar. Hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) is the result of unchecked diabetes. Over time hyperglycemia can damage vital systems of the body, particularly the nerves and blood vessels.
According to the World Health Organization (August 2011), 364 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes.3 In the United States diabetes affects 25.8 million (8.3 percent of the population) people of all ages. About 18.8 million have been clinically diagnosed as diabetics, while approximately 7 million people are still undiagnosed or pre-diabetics. Strong risk factors for type 2 diabetes include family history of diabetes and being overweight. Other risk factors are age (particularly individuals aged 60 and older) and a history of gestational diabetes in women.4
Several studies have associated low levels of Vitamin D with a higher risk of developing diabetes. Those who want to manufacture vitamins can target this niche group (diabetics and pre-diabetics) by producing well-researched, science-backed Vitamin D supplements.
- A systematic review of 8 observational cohort studies and 11 randomized controlled trials established an association between Vitamin D status and diabetes. The review which was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition associates a daily intake of Vitamin D of 500 International Units (IUs) with a 13 percent reduction of type 2 diabetes compared with a daily Vitamin D intake of 200 IUs. Individuals with high Vitamin D status (measuring more than 25 nanograms per millimeter) were reported to have a 43 percent reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes when compared to people having the lowest blood levels (less than 14 nanograms/ml).5
- Dr. Esther Krug, MD, an endocrinologist at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, decided to further study Vitamin D’s potential role in regulating pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin. She and her colleagues evaluated the medical charts at an outpatient clinic from 2003 to 2008 of 124 people with type 2 diabetes. The chart contained information on the measurement of blood sugar control over a 12-week span. Krug’s team divided the findings into 4 groups categorized by the level of Vitamin D deficiency—normal (defined in the study as above 32 nanograms per deciliter), mild deficiency, moderate deficiency, or severe. Out of the 124 patients, 113 were found to be Vitamin D deficient, out of which 35.5 percent suffered severe deficiency, 38.7 percent were moderately deficient and 16.9 were mildly deficient in Vitamin D. Those having the most severe deficiency of Vitamin D were observed to have the highest blood sugar levels. Only 6.4 percent of the 124 patients were taking Vitamin D supplements, suggesting that more awareness needs to be created about the benefits of Vitamin D supplementation amongst diabetics.6
How does Vitamin D work in the regulation of insulin and blood sugar?
While studies show that Vitamin D may play a role in preventing and treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, researchers are not clear just how Vitamin D works in the body to regulate insulin and control blood sugar balance.7-8 A possible clue lies in recent research which discovered Vitamin D Receptors (VDRs) on the cell membranes of most cell types in the body. The presence of these receptors in tissues with no direct role in calcium and bone metabolism, such as in pancreatic beta-cells, indicate that Vitamin D may mediate insulin secretion and glucose tolerance through these cell pathways. “The Role of Vitamin D in Diabetes”, published in The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism (2011) describes the mechanism by which Vitamin D may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes:
"Several reports have ascribed an active role to vitamin D in the functional regulation of the endocrine pancreas, particularly the beta-cells. Not only are receptors for 1,25(OH)2D3 found in beta-cells, but the effect or part of the vitamin D pathway is also present in the form of vitamin D-dependent calcium-binding protein, also known as calbindin-D28k. The expression of calbindin-D28K has been shown to protect beta-cells from cytokine-mediated cell death, thereby reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes."9
Other Benefits of Vitamin D
The discovery of VDRs in various cell types has broadened our understanding of the role in Vitamin D and its role in supporting a wide range of health conditions. Benefits include:
Improved Immunity – Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and other autoimmune conditions. VDRs have been discovered on the immune system's macrophage and dendritic cells. Triggered by vitamin D, macrophage cells release antibacterial peptides (parts of protein) which play a vital role in protecting the body from infection.10
Regulation of Blood Pressure and Promoting Cardiovascular Health – Studies show that a deficiency in Vitamin D is a risk factor for high blood pressure.11 Optimal levels of Vitamin D are needed to regulate healthy blood pressure controlled by the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). Vitamin D functions as an endocrine inhibitor of the RAS thus providing an explanation for Vitamin D and its association with cardiovascular health. Epidemiological studies confirm an association between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of cardiovascular problems.12-13
Improved Muscle Composition and Function – Inadequate levels of Vitamin D have been associated with accumulation of fat throughout muscle tissue resulting in decreased muscle strength and performance. Nerve firing and triggering of muscle contractions are dependent on calcium and since Vitamin D regulates calcium metabolism, it indirectly plays a role in muscle function, and may even reduce the risk of falls.14-15
Convenient, Quick and Efficient Manufacturing of High-Quality Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D supplements are typically manufactured in tablets and capsules. Supplement business owners can enhance or reinforce their vitamin supplement line with high-quality Vitamin D supplements by using a GMP-certified supplement contract manufacturer that can help you private label Vitamin D supplements or customize unique formulas to target specific health conditions.
- Frost & Sullivan, Vitamin D: Health Unlimited, March 18, 2010. frost.com/prod/servlet/market-insight-top.pag?docid=196049778
- Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults, Nutr Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):48-54. PMID: 21310306. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310306
- Diabetes, World Health Organization, who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/
- National Diabetes Statistics, The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health. diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/index.aspx#fast
- Vitamin D and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication 6 July 2011; doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.118. nature.com/ejcn/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ejcn2011118a.html
- Poor control of diabetes may be linked to low vitamin D, News Room, The Endocrine Society. (diabetes.webmd.com/news/20100621/low-vitamin-d-linked-to-poor-diabetes-control
- Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet 2001;358:1500-3. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11705562?dopt=Abstract
- Vitamin D and calcium intake in relation to type 2 diabetes in women. Diabetes Care 2006;29:650-6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16505521?dopt=Abstract
- Role of Vitamin D in Diabetes, Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Vol. 1, No. 2, Jun 2011. jofem.org/index.php/jofem/article/viewArticle/23/32
- Toll-Like Receptor Triggering of a Vitamin D-Mediated Human Antimicrobial Response, published Online 23 February 2006, Science 24 March 2006: Vol. 311 no. 5768 pp. 1770-1773, DOI: 10.1126/science.1123933. sciencemag.org/content/311/5768/1770.short
- Vitamin D: a negative endocrine regulator of the renin-angiotensin system and blood pressure, J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 May;89-90(1-5):387-92. PMID: 15225806. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15225806
- Molecular Mechanism of Vitamin D in the Cardiovascular System, Journal of Investigative Medicine: August 2011 - Volume 59 - Issue 6 - pp 868-871. journals.lww.com/jinvestigativemed/Fulltext/2011/08000/Molecular_Mechanism_of_Vitamin_D_in_the.4.aspx
- Role of vitamin D in cardiovascular health, Am J Cardiol. 2010 Sep 15;106(6):798-805. Epub 2010 Aug 1. PMID: 20816120. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20816120
- Vitamin D and skeletal muscle tissue and function, Mol Aspects Med. 2008 Dec;29(6):407-14. Epub 2008 Aug 8, PMID: 18727936. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18727936
- Vitamin D deficiency, muscle function, and falls in elderly people, Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:611–5. Printed in USA. © 2002 American Society for Clinical Nutrition. eatwellwestmi.org/uploads/1/6/1/5/1615267/vit_d_falls.pdf