A yogurt a day keeps heart disease biomarkers at bay

Diabetes and heart disease often go hand-in-hand. Artery damage and high blood pressure are more common and often more severe in people with diabetes. But according to a recent study, making a change as simple as having sufficient levels of vitamin D could cut the risk, lowering blood cholesterol and heart disease biomarkers.

Some studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with the development of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes as well as poor blood glucose control. Lack of vitamin D has also been allied with the onset of cardiovascular disease, triggering damage to the lining of the blood vessels (the endothelium), which leads to atherosclerosis. This damage is signposted by increases in certain biomarkers such as serum endothelin-1, E-selectin and MMP-9.

In a double-blind trial in which people with Type 2 diabetes drank a plain or vitamin D-rich yogurt drink, researchers at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and the National Nutrition and Food Technology Research Institute (NNFTRI) saw an improvement in fasting glucose, insulin and QUICK1 (a measure of insulin resistance), along with some improvements in HbA1c, a long-term measure of blood glucose. There were also evident changes in blood lipids and these endothelial biomarkers.

NNFTRI's Dr. Tirang Neyestani explained: "The patients who had taken the vitamin D [yogurt] also had improved cholesterol levels with lower total cholesterol and LDL levels and an increase in HDL. All the improvements in cholesterol seemed to be due to the reduction in insulin resistance. The biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction, serum endothelin-1, E-selectin and MMP-9, levels were also lower for the patients taking vitamin D."

The main improvements were seen in people who were deficient in vitamin D, so it's not clear how much difference there would be in patients with normal levels of the vitamin. However, a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle that includes exercise outdoors could have an impact on Type 2 diabetes and will also include adequate levels of vitamin D.

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- see the abstract