U of T study finds low levels of Vitamin D3 and Periodontitis may trigger the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes

August 13/2018

By Françoise Makanda, Communications Officer at Dalla Lana School of Public Health

In the first study of its kind, a DLSPH PhD student identified how vitamin D3 and periodontitis influence Type 2 diabetes.

Aleksandra Zuk found increased odds of developing Type 2 diabetes among people with gum disease who are also vitamin D3 insufficient.

“We know that vitamin D is not only helpful for bone health, but is also shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Sufficient vitamin D levels can potentially decrease inflammation and affect oral microbes related to gum disease,” said Zuk, a PhD Epidemiology candidate who is the lead author on the study and a trainee at the Population Health Analytics Laboratory.

The prevalence of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes is rising, but the origin of the disease is unclear. According to Zuk, it’s critical to explore the impact of novel risk factors associated with disease risk.

The study, “Joint effects of serum vitamin D insufficiency and periodontitis on insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes,” published July 23, 2018 in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care uses National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data on the U.S. population. Participants were over the age of 30, and health interviews and physical measurements were conducted in-home and at a mobile examination center.

Vitamin D is predominantly produced in the skin from sun exposure or through the consumption of some foods. Gum disease is caused through an excess and persistence of gum inflammation that result from oral microbes. At its worst, poorly controlled diabetes worsens periodontal disease. Researchers have found that half of American adults have some form of gum disease and lack vitamin D sufficiency.

Zuk hopes that by better understanding exposures, targeted treatment can be an additional line of defense against diabetes. For example, by changing the vitamin D status from low to high among adults with periodontitis could affect glucose levels in people living with Type 2 diabetes.

“Because it’s the first study, we really need to look at these two exposures again in other studies and population. It might impact further diabetes research,” said Zuk who was supervised by Associate Professor Laura Rosella.

This research was funded by a Connaught New Researcher Award held by LCR at the University of Toronto.