The health benefits of Vitamin D are extremely well documented. In fact, the vitamin is so highly regarded among nutritionists that it is often added to foods like cereal, breads and milks to help consumers boost their daily intake. Recent studies have given us one more reason to pay homage to this vitamin.  Researchers have found a strong link between Vitamin D and insulin sensitivity which could be an important factor in the management of diabetes.

Our bodies require insulin in order to use glucose, which comes from the foods we eat. If insulin levels are not sufficient, glucose stays in the blood which leads to excessive levels of blood sugar. High blood sugar levels can eventually lead to damage to the kidneys, heart, nerves and other organs.

According to a 2011 article in Diabetes Forecast magazine, low vitamin D levels have been linked to insulin resistance in diabetics. Insulin resistance is a metabolic disorder that prevents cells from using insulin in an efficient manner. One way to mitigate insulin resistance is to boost insulin sensitivity in the body so that cells are able to obtain more glucose. Studies have shown that diabetics who increase their intake of vitamin D are able to boost their body’s sensitivity to insulin.

The Vitamin D research comes as welcome news to the 23.6 million people in the United States who have diabetes. More than 1.6 million new cases are diagnosed each year. There are also several million people who suffer from a condition called “prediabetes” who have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels that increase their chances of developing the disease.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. (That is why it is often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin.”) Foods that contain vitamin D include eggs, goat’s milk, mushrooms and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Pure, unrefined cod liver oil contains vitamin D. Always check the label carefully because much of the cod liver oil on the market today has had the vitamin D removed.

Because it is difficult to get the needed amounts of Vitamin D from diet alone, many people choose to use supplements. Vitamin D supplements are available at pharmacies and natural health stores. The supplementation requirements may vary from person to person. Talk to your holistic health professional to determine the amounts that best suit your needs.

Vitamin D is essential for several bodily functions, including increasing calcium absorption to prevent brittle bones and osteoporosis. As we get older our bodies need more vitamin D and it becomes especially important to include the “sunshine vitamin” in your stay-well regimen.