Vitamin D: A Cure for Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome - you might know it as pre-diabetes - is that
increasingly common collection of low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. 1 in 4 Americans now have it.
Metabolic syndrome might be better called "metabolic turmoil," since there's a boiling pot of metabolic disruptions at work, such as increased inflammation (higher c-reactive protein and others), glycation (abnormal blood sugar modification of proteins, such as those in your eyes and kidneys), distortions of hormone production (e.g., reduction in testosterone) and greater blood clotting tendencies. Metabolic syndrome is usually associated with a big tummy (abdominal visceral fat) and, in my view, is largely caused by eating carbohydrates like wheat, cornstarch, and sugar products.
In short, metabolic syndrome creates a metabolic mess that leads to increased likelihood of heart disease, vascular disease, stroke, and cancer. The medical community has been paying increasingly greater attention to this condition because of its booming prevalence.
A funny thing happened in my cardiology practice about four years ago: When we corrected vitamin D deficiency, metabolic syndrome improved, sometimes dramatically: blood sugar decreased (about 5 mg/dl), blood pressure decreased, c-reactive protein decreased, triglycerides decreased. While it didn't "cure" metabolic syndrome, it sure improved it substantially.
Replacement of vitamin D to healthy levels yields:
- Higher HDL
- Lower triglycerides
- Lower blood sugar
- Reduced c-reactive protein
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced small LDL
- Enhanced sensitivity to insulin
(In my clinic, we aim to restore vitamin D to 60-70 ng/ml or 150-175 nmol/l.)
Vitamin D is proving to be a very important and powerful influence on many of the facets of the metabolic syndrome. In fact, vitamin D yields nearly the same effect as some prescription drugs for pre-diabetes at much lower cost and without side-effects like leg swelling, congestive heart failure, and weight gain. Vitamin D also provides benefits beyond metabolic syndrome like increased bone density, reduced arthritis, reduced risk of several cancers, elimination of winter "blues," and longevity.