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Vitamin A for Diabetes

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Vitamin A Does More Than Just Improve Your Eyesight

Coined as the vitamin for your eyesight, vitamin A has a new claim to fame. From producing white blood cells to remodeling bone to rejuvenating skin, vitamin A’s newest defined role is improving beta cell functioning in diabetics. Early in life, vitamin A does play an important developmental role for beta cells, which leads to proper functioning for fighting inflammation in adult years. Beta cells, which store and release the hormone insulin to help regulate blood glucose levels, have a large cell surface receptor for vitamin A.

Researchers found that when the vitamin A surface on the beta cells was blocked, there was a 30% deterioration of insulin secretion. Essentially, without vitamin A, the beta cells became less inflammation resistant. When the cell becomes completely deficient of vitamin A, it dies. This leads way into understanding both type 1 and 2 diabetes’ beta-cells formation from the early stages and how we may intervene.

While we want diabetics to have sufficient vitamin A in their body, too much of a good thing may pose risks. Most concerning is an overdose of vitamin A through supplementation as it may lead to osteoporosis and unwanted side effects within diabetes self-management, furthering our evidence that supplements are unnecessary and potentially harmful. However, exceeding the upper limit through food does not pose risks, yielding another reason to use food as medicine.

The best way to get a healthy dose of vitamin A is through fruits and vegetables. On average, an adult needs anywhere between 700-900 micrograms of vitamin A per day. We often find vitamin A in the orange and yellow foods, noting the beta-carotene we commonly recognize. Carrots, mango, sweet potato, and butternut squash certainly come to mind, but do not discount kale, broccoli or spinach as they also pack a healthy punch of vitamin A as well! These foods will not only help with diabetes, but also bone health. For comparison, a whole sweet potato contains approximately 1,400 micrograms per potato and cooked spinach yields about 570 micrograms per cup. So, it isn’t surprising that Dole’s Roasted Sweet Potato with Spinach side dish only has only 10 natural ingredients, yet 690% of your daily needs of food-related vitamin A. 

Published August 1, 2017

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