Could Vitamin A Deficiency Cause Diabetes?
A new study suggests that vitamin A plays a key role in the functioning of beta cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. Vitamin A deficiency can damage and destroy these beta cells, causing diabetes. This discovery could lead to the development of new treatments for both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The study was conducted by researchers in the U.K. and Sweden, and the results were published in the Endocrine Journal. Researchers discovered large numbers of vitamin A receptors on the surface of beta cells and set out to determine the function of these receptors. In animal subjects, blocking the vitamin A receptors reduced the cells’ ability to produce insulin in response to sugar by almost 30 percent. Impaired insulin production is a primary cause for type 2 diabetes.
In addition, researchers found that inadequate levels of vitamin A impaired the beta cells’ ability to fight inflammation, causing them to die. The destruction of beta cells causes type 1 diabetes. High levels of vitamin A can be harmful, so supplementation is not the answer.