Lack Of Vitamin A Plays Role in Type 2 Diabetes Development

by Barbara Hewitt on January 30, 2015

Vitamin A deficiency could play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, a discovery that may lead to new treatments for the condition.

Scientists in the United States have found that a lack of the vitamin, commonly found in many fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products, may be a driver in the surge in type 2 diabetes.

The team from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York say that vitamin A boosts beta cell activity, meaning lack of the vitamin may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

diabetes research

Vitamin A helped with beta cell production, insulin production and blood glucose levels.

There are two types of vitamin A; preformed vitamin A, referred to as retinol, is present in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, while pro-vitamin A, or beta-carotene, is found in many fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A aids cell growth and contributes to a healthy immune system and vision.

Past studies have shown that, during foetal development, vitamin A is key for beta cell production. But Dr. Lorraine Gudas, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell, explained that it was unclear as to whether vitamin A played such a role in adulthood.

To find out, the team analysed the beta cell development among two groups of adult mice; one group of mice had been genetically modified to be unable to store dietary vitamin A, while the other group was able to store the vitamin from foods as normal.

The researchers found that the mice unable to store vitamin A experienced beta cell death, meaning these mice were unable to produce insulin.

What is more, when the researchers removed vitamin A from the diets of healthy mice, they found this led to significant beta cell loss, resulting in reduced insulin production and increased blood glucose levels, key factors involved in development of type 2 diabetes.

When the researchers restored vitamin A to the rodents’ diets, beta cell production rose, insulin production increased and blood glucose levels returned to normal.

‘How the removal of vitamin A causes the death of the beta cells that make insulin in the pancreas is an important question we now want to answer,’ said Gudas.

‘These beta cells in the pancreas are exquisitely sensitive to the dietary removal of vitamin A. No one has found that before. Our study sets the platform to take these studies further into preclinical and clinical settings,’ she added.

The team also suggests that a synthetic form of vitamin A may have the potential to reverse type 2 diabetes, something they plan to address in future research.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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