Based on new research, scientists are beginning to understand why people with diabetes should be particularly wary of vitamin D deficiency.
Anyone with low levels of the vitamin may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, but a team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found vitamin D deficiency causes diabetics to be unable to process cholesterol normally.
As a consequence, cholesterol builds up in their blood vessels, which leads to an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke.
Dr. Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, a Washington University endocrinologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said that vitamin D inhibits the absorption of cholesterol by cells known as macrophages.
"When people are deficient in vitamin D, the macrophage cells eat more cholesterol, and they can’t get rid of it…They become what scientists call foam cells, which are one of the earliest markers of atherosclerosis," he explained.
Individuals at risk for high cholesterol may consider eliminating red and processed meats from their diet and replacing them with omega-3 fatty acids which have proven heart benefits and which can be found in oily fish and nutritional supplements.