Can Vitamin A Deficiency Cause Diabetes?

Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus is perhaps the most common form of endocrinological disorder in the United States and constitute to about 95% cases of all diagnosed diabetes. A person with Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus typically has insulin resistance. It means that the fat, muscles, and the liver are not able to use glucose properly for energy. As a result, the individual tends to have high blood sugar levels which have their own set of complications. The cause for insulin resistance is the inability of the beta cells which produce insulin to function normally and effectively.[1,2,3]

A study recently done observed that vitamin A boosted beta cell activity which led to the observation that if there is a deficiency of vitamin A then it may lead to the development of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. There are two forms of vitamin A namely preformed and pro-vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is found abundantly in fish, poultry items, and dairy products. Pro-vitamin A is found in fruits and vegetables. The primary function of vitamin A is to boost the immune system, promote cell activity and growth, and also help in a person have healthy eyesight.[1,2,3]

There have been various studies done in the past which have shown that during fetal development vitamin A is crucial for beta cell production which in turn produces insulin. However, there are many researchers who have a different opinion and state that there is no clear evidence to suggest that vitamin A plays a key role in beta cell activity in adulthood.[1,2,3]

However, a most recent study done by researchers and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry makes a mention that Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus can be caused due to vitamin A deficiency. The study was done by researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. They state that the findings of their study may open new avenues with regard to the treatment for Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus.[1,2,3] This article gives more insight into the association of vitamin A deficiency and diabetes.

Can Vitamin A Deficiency Cause Diabetes?

To get more insight into the association between vitamin A deficiency and diabetes, the researchers used an animal model. They analyzed the beta cell development on two groups of adult mice. One group was genetically modified such that it was unable to store vitamin A meaning that it was deficient of this vitamin. The other group was a normal adult mice without any issues with storage of vitamin A.[3]

On close analysis, the researchers found out that the group of mice that was unable to store vitamin A started to show beta cell death. This showed that the group was not able to produce insulin. Furthermore, when the researchers removed any source of vitamin A from the diet of healthy mice it was noted that there was significant beta cells loss causing a significant decrease in insulin production and hyperglycemia, both of which are primary contributors of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. When the diet was normalized in this group of mice the insulin production returned back to normal and hyperglycemia resolved.[3]

This clearly showed that vitamin A deficiency was clearly linked to Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. However, the question that the researchers were still not able to answer is how vitamin A deficiency causes beta cell death that makes insulin. They believe that more research is needed to find an answer to this puzzle. However, the researchers state that by far no one has found out that the beta cells in the pancreas are overly sensitive to dietary removal of vitamin A and their study sets a benchmark for further research on this topic.[3]

The researchers state that their findings also suggested that a synthetic form of vitamin A is capable of reversing the effects of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus; however, more research needs to be done on this issue.[3]

In conclusion, Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most common forms of diabetes seen in the United States and constitute about 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Insulin resistance is the key factor in Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. A person is said to have insulin resistance when the muscles, fat, and liver are not able to process insulin causing a rise in blood sugar levels in the body.[1,2,3]

While there are many factors that are at play in the development of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus, a new study has found that vitamin A deficiency may cause this form of diabetes. It is well-known that vitamin A plays a crucial role in developing beta cell s that produce insulin in the pancreas during fetal development. However, whether it plays the same role even in adulthood is something which researchers have different opinions about.[1,2,3]

A latest research done on mice models in which two groups of mice were selected of which one group was genetically modified such that they were not able to store vitamin A and the other group was normal. It was observed that the group which was not able to store vitamin A started to show beta cell death. This was also proved when vitamin A was removed from the diet of healthy mice causing hyperglycemia. This clearly proved that deficiency of vitamin A is responsible for the development of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus.[1,2,3]

It was also observed in the study that the use of synthetic vitamin A reversed the effects of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus. However, more research is required to find out as to why vitamin A deficiency causes beta cell death resulting in the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin causing Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus.[1,2,3]

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