While prevalence of metabolic syndrome continues to rise, the scope of benefit afforded by vitamin D is equally unrelenting. Young adults consuming more vitamin D are less likely to have symptoms of metabolic syndrome over the course of their lives, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota (1).
In their study, the researchers found that participants with the highest intakes of vitamin D were less likely to have abdominal obesity, low HDL, and high blood glucose. Of the 4,727 participants surveyed, almost one in five developed metabolic syndrome at the 20-year follow-up.
“Total vitamin D consumption in young black and white men and women, including the intake of supplements, may lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome as these individuals transition to middle age,” the authors wrote.
The protection that comes with a higher vitamin D status failed to differ between races or gender. While the calculated benefit remains consistent, the black participants were the least likely to have a high intake of the vitamin. Consumption of milk products, fish, and vitamin D supplements made the dietary difference when it came to satisfying vitamin D sufficiency.
In 2011, the American Diabetes Association reported that prevalence of metabolic syndrome is on the rise, particularly in young people. The government survey revealed that more than one-third of U.S. adults have three of the five risk factors, which is a 5 percent jump from the previous decade. The largest increases seen have been in young women, reflecting the trend of abdominal obesity and diabetes starting to develop during childhood (2).
Sounding another alarm, a meta-analysis published in the American College of Cardiology showed that cardiovascular risk doubles in individuals with metabolic syndrome, while all-cause mortality increases by 50 percent (3).
As people spend less time outdoors, attaining vitamin D recommendations through the diet is becoming more and more important. This sunshine vitamin is a hormone regulating everything from bone formation to blood pressure. Although the authors are unsure of the exact mechanisms behind vitamin D’s protective effects, their study still shows that supplementing with vitamin D may be a great way to attain optimal levels when whole foods and sun exposure aren’t meeting the mark.
Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of risk factors that put individuals at higher risk for developing chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose are the five potential criteria for metabolic syndrome, but a combination of any three qualifies someone as having it.
- Fung GJ et al. Vitamin D intake is inversely related to risk of developing metabolic syndrome in African American and white men and women over 20 y: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Am J Clin Nutr 2012 doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.036863
- Mozumdar A and G Liguori. Persistent Increase of Prevalence of Mtabolic Syndrome Among U.S. Adults: NHANES III to NHANES 1999-2006. Diabetes Care 2011; 34(1):216-19 doi: 10.2337/dc10-0879
- Motillo S et al. Metabolic Syndrome and Cardiovascular Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Coll Cardiol 2010;56:1113-32. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.05.034