Vitamin D in Eggs – Benefits to Diabetes

I recently wrote about the importance of vitamin D to health, and I mentioned that this compound shows some evidence of positive effects in any number of “systemic” conditions including diabetes. Along those lines I was interested to see the results this week of studies from Iowa State University on lab rats with diabetes and vitamin D from an egg-based diet. The researchers selected eggs for their study because the vitamin D in egg yolks requires no conversion in our bodies – it is already 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 – and because lost kidney function in diabetes can result in lower blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3.

The results were pretty astounding. You can probably guess that vitamin D blood levels rose – by 148%, in fact. But researchers also noted two additional health benefits, both of which are clearly beneficial to diabetes. First, blood triglyceride levels – a risk factor for heart disease – dropped by 52%. Second, the animals showed improved blood glucose levels (and gained less weight). That’s all great news.

The not-so-great news – the egg based diet was equivalent to eating about 17 eggs per day. That’s considerably more eggs than any current dietary recommendation. The benefit of vitamin D content, which is contained in the yolk, may not outweigh the amount of saturated fat (2 grams per egg) and sodium (70 mg per egg). Plus, who could eat 17 eggs per day, every day? The results leave questions on sustainability and long term health when following a 17 egg/day diet. But, that’s OK for now – here’s how research works.

These scientists are back in the laboratory to tweak their work. They will see if reducing the volume of eggs still gives the same benefits, and they will also look to combine smaller doses of egg with other dietary constituents, like fiber, which also promote vitamin D status and improve diabetes symptoms. They are optimistic about finding a more realistic and practical level at which eggs will bring the same benefits seen in this study.

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