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Vitamin D May Prevent Clogged Arteries in Diabetics

People with diabetes often develop clogged arteries that cause heart disease, and new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that low vitamin D levels are to blame.

In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers report that blood vessels are less likely to clog in people with diabetes with adequate vitamin D. But in patients with insufficient vitamin D, immune cells bind to blood vessels near the heart, then trap cholesterol to block those blood vessels.

Vitamin D conspires with immune cells called macrophages either to keep arteries clear or to clog them. The macrophages begin their existence as white blood cells called monocytes that circulate in the bloodstream. But when monocytes encounter inflammation, they are transformed into macrophages, which no longer circulate. In the study, researchers looked at vitamin D levels in people with type 2 diabetes compared with others who were similar in age, sex and body weight but didn’t have diabetes. They looked at blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes control, body weight and race and found that in diabetes patients with low vitamin D — less than 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood — the macrophage cells were more likely to adhere to the walls of blood vessels, which triggers cells to get loaded with cholesterol, eventually causing the vessels to stiffen and block blood flow.

Riek J et al. Vitamin D Suppression of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Promotes an Antiatherogenic Monocyte/Macrophage Phenotype in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 287 (46): 38482 DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M112.386912

Categories: Nutritional News, Metabolic Health