Supplements of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, may relieve pain in people with Type 2 diabetes who suffer from neuropathy, according to a recent study conducted in Australia.
Peripheral neuropathy is a frequent complication of diabetes. “Pins and needles” type pains, numbness, burning, tingling and throbbing sensations in the hands and feet are symptoms. Conventional medicine has no effective cure for these pains.
Vitamin D levels are often low in people with Type 2 diabetes, particularly in the winter months when less sunshine is available, and there is some evidence that supplementation may be helpful. While updating the e-book version of my book, Alternative Therapies for Managing Diabetes, as I do every year, I came upon an interesting new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that supports supplementation with Vitamin D for neuropathy.
Doctors in Australia studied a group of 51 patients with type 2 diabetes suffering from neuropathy. All patients in the trial were deficient in Vitamin D. Patients whose Vitamin D was most depleted suffered the highest levels of pain.
Subjects with Type 2 diabetes were given supplemental Vitamin D3 tablets with mean doses of about 2,000 IU of Vitamin D for three months. Replenishing Vitamin D levels in these patients brought about “significant reductions” of 49% and 39% in two standard subjective measures of pain, according to the Australian study.
Vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis which often occurs in people with diabetes. Vitamin D also has some beneficial effects on insulin and blood sugar, and is free of adverse effects according to authors of the Australian study. In 1999, a study conducted in London found that a Vitamin D derivative prevented the depletion of nerve growth factor in rats.
A meta-analysis of several studies noted that a deficiency of either Vitamin D or calcium may adversely affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and that supplementation could be beneficial.
According to Medline Plus, the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most accurate way to measure vitamin D levels in the body. The Endocrine Society defines vitamin D deficiency as a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood level below 20 nanograms per milliliter, and vitamin D insufficiency as between 21-29 ng/mL. The normal range on the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is between 30 and 74 ng/mL.
The body makes most of the Vitamin D it needs when the skin is exposed to sunlight, and fish also contains a good amount. Recommended intakes of Vitamin D supplements are currently 400 IU/day for people 51-70 years and 600 IU/day for those over 70. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a Vitamin D intake of more 2,000 IU per day is the safe upper limit for children and adults. Too much Vitamin D can cause calcium levels to spike, over time resulting in heart or kidney damage. Sunlight will not cause Vitamin D toxicity, which is caused by too many supplements.
Lee, Paul, MBBS (Hons) and Roger Chen, “Vitamin D as an Analgesic for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Neuropathic Pain,” Archives of Internal Medicine Vol. 168 (No. 7) Apr 14, 2008.
Pittas, Anastassios G, MDMSc, et al, “The Role of Vitamin D and Calcium in type 2 diabetes. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” J Clin Endocrinology Metab, 2007 June; 92(6):2017-2029.
Rias, S., et al, “A vitamin D(3) derivative (CB 1093) induces nerve growth factor and prevents neurotrophic deficits in streptozotocin-diabetic rats,” Diabetologia, 1999 Nov;42(11):1308-13.
U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet on Vitamin D