It’s been known for years that low blood levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk for developing diabetes. Two new studies show that even if you already have diabetes, you still need more vitamin D — in this case to lower your risk of developing nerve pain (diabetic neuropathy). Nerve pain is also common in fibromyalgia — so it’s good to be sure to get 1,000-2,000 units of vitamin D each day.
One study involved 210 people with diabetes, 87 of whom had peripheral neuropathy — burning, stabbing or shooting pain in the hands, arms, feet or legs, sometimes with numbness and tingling.
The researchers found that those with neuropathy had an average blood level of vitamin D that was 37 percent lower than those who didn’t have neuropathy. In fact, 82 percent of people with peripheral neuropathy had a vitamin D deficiency — compared to 60 percent of those without neuropathy. (People with low blood levels of vitamin D also had higher LDL cholesterol and weaker kidneys.)
In another study on vitamin D, diabetes and neuropathy, researchers analyzed years of health data from more than eight million Americans. Vitamin D deficiency (which they found in 81 percent of people with diabetes, including 98 percent of African-Americans and 92 percent of Hispanics) doubled the risk of developing diabetic neuropathy.
The bottom line is you should get 10 to 20 minutes of daily sunshine to trigger the production of vitamin D. You should also take a multivitamin supplement with plenty of vitamin D. Also consider natural remedies for neuropathy, which studies show are more effective than medications. Natural remedies include nutritional supplements such as include alpha lipoic acid, acetyl L-carnitine, and B vitamins such as B6 and B12.
Author: Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.
1. Does Vitamin D deficiency play a role in peripheral neuropathy in Type 2 diabetes? Shehab D, Al-Jarallah K, Mojiminiyi OA, et al, Diabetes Medicine, 2012 Jan;29(1):43-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03510.x.
2. Association between vitamin D and diabetic neuropathy in a nationally representative sample: results from 2001-2004 NHANES. Soderstrom LH, Johnson SP, Diaz VA, et al, Diabetes Medicine, 2012 Jan;29(1):50-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03379.x.