Vitamin D plays a crucial role in health. Research confirms that vitamin D is vital for keeping arteries clear — especially in people with diabetes, who are more prone to clogged arteries and heart disease due to the inflammatory nature of their disease.
“About 26 million Americans now have type 2 diabetes,” says principal investigator Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, “And as obesity rates rise, we expect even more people will develop diabetes. Those patients are more likely to experience heart problems due to an increase in vascular inflammation, so we have been investigating why this occurs.”
The study, published in Journal of Biological Chemistry, found that in diabetes patients with low vitamin D, macrophage cells (immune cells altered by inflammation) were more likely to adhere to the walls of blood vessels. Those adhesions trigger cells to load up with cholesterol, eventually causing the vessels to stiffen and block blood flow.
“In the future, we hope to generate medications, potentially even vitamin D itself, that help prevent the deposit of cholesterol in the blood vessels,” Bernal-Mizrachi explains. “Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency in these patients to increases in cardiovascular disease and in mortality. Other work has suggested that vitamin D may improve insulin release from the pancreas and insulin sensitivity. Our ultimate goal is to intervene in people with diabetes and to see whether vitamin D might decrease inflammation, reduce blood pressure and lessen the likelihood that they will develop atherosclerosis or other vascular complications.”