Could vitamin A deficiency be a cause of type 2 diabetes?
A new study published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry claims to have identified a potential driver of type 2 diabetes: vitamin A deficiency. The researchers, from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, NY, say their findings may lead to new treatments for the condition.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the US, accounting for 90-95% of all diagnosed cases.
The condition is characterized by insulin resistance, in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are unable to function effectively.
According to senior author Dr. Lorraine Gudas - chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell - and colleagues, vitamin A boosts beta cell activity, meaning lack of the vitamin may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
There are two types of vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A, referred to as retinol, is present in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, while pro-vitamin A, or beta-carotene, is found in many fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A aids cell growth and contributes to a healthy immune system and vision.
Past studies have shown that, during fetal development, vitamin A is key for beta cell production. But Dr. Gudas and colleagues say it was unclear as to whether vitamin A played such a role in adulthood.
Removal of dietary vitamin A led to beta cell loss in adult mice
To find out, the team analyzed the beta cell development among two groups of adult mice; one group of mice had been genetically modified to be unable to store dietary vitamin A, while the other group was able to store the vitamin from foods as normal.