Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to type 2 diabetes risk in Caucasians, study finds

Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to racial differences in the way fat is stored in the body and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes among obese Caucasian children, according to a new study from a team of University of Pittsburgh researchers.

The results, which were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed that both Caucasian and African-American children with vitamin D deficiencies were more likely to be obese. However, Caucasians tended to have higher levels of visceral fat, which has been shown to increase an individual's risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while African-American teens were more likely to have excess subcutaneous fat, which does not carry as much risk.

The researchers said that both vitamin D deficiency and type 2 diabetes have been increasing rapidly in the last few years, particularly among young people. Their findings show that the two issues may be more closely related than previously thought.

"Vitamin D deficiency is rampant in American youth, and there is some suggestion in adults that low levels of vitamin D may be playing a role in the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes. It is possible the same may be true for youth with type 2 diabetes," said Silvia Arslanian, who led the investigation.

For the study, the researchers examined 237 young people between the ages of 8 and 18. After testing vitamin D levels and taking body fat measurements, they found that those with the lowest levels of the nutrient, regardless of race, were more likely to have high levels of body fat. However, only Caucasian youths had elevated levels of the more dangerous visceral fat, which surrounds inner organs.

Arslanian added that screening more children for vitamin D deficiency may help them avoid developing type 2 diabetes as adults.
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