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Altered glucose metabolism rather than naive type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is related to vitamin D status in severe obesity

Mattia Bellan1, Gabriele Guzzaloni2, Maura Rinaldi2, Elena Merlotti1, Carlotta Ferrari1, Antonella Tagliaferri2, Mario Pirisi1, Gianluca Aimaretti3, Massimo Scacchi24 and Paolo Marzullo23*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Translational Medicine, Division of Internal Medicine, Università del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”, Novara, Italy

2 Division of General Medicine, Ospedale S. Giuseppe, I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Verbania, Italy

3 Department of Translational Medicine, Università del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”, Novara, Italy

4 Department of Clinical and Community Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Cardiovascular Diabetology 2014, 13:57  doi:10.1186/1475-2840-13-57

Published: 11 March 2014



The last decades have provided insights into vitamin D physiology linked to glucose homeostasis. Uncertainties remain in obesity due to its intrinsic effects on vitamin D and glucose tolerance.


To assess the relationship between vitamin D and glucose abnormalities in severely obese individuals previously unknown to suffer from abnormal glucose metabolism.


Tertiary care centre.


524 obese patients (50.3 ± 14.9 yrs; BMI, 47.7 ± 7.3 kg/m2) screened by OGTT, HbA1c and the lipid profile. Vitamin D status was assessed by 25(OH)D3, PTH and electrolyte levels. 25(OH)D3 deficiency/insufficiency were set at 20 and 30 ng/ml, respectively. All comparative and regression analyses were controlled for age, BMI and gender.


The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism were 95% and 50.8%, respectively. Normal glucose tolerance (NGT), impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) were found in 37.8%, 40.5% and 21.7% of cases, respectively. Large variations in metabolic parameters were seen across categories of vitamin D status, but the only significant differences were found for C-peptide, tryglicerides, LDL- and HDL-cholesterol levels (p < 0.05 for all). The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was documented to be slightly but significantly more frequent in glucose-intolerant patients (IFG + IGT + T2DM) compared to the -normotolerant counterpart (87% vs. 80%, p < 0.05). In partial correlation analyses, there was no association between vitamin D levels and glucose-related markers but for HbA1c (r = −0.091, p < 0.05), and both basal and OGTT-stimulated insulin levels (r = 0.097 and r = 0.099; p < 0.05 for all). Vitamin D levels were also correlated to HDL-cholesterol (r = 0.13, p = 0.002). Multivariate regression analysis inclusive of vitamin D, age, BMI, gender and fat mass as independent variables, showed that vitamin D was capable of predicting HbA1c levels (β = −0.101, p < 0.05).


Given the inherent effect of obesity on vitamin D and glucose homeostasis, current data suggest a potential independent role for vitamin D in the regulation of glucose metabolism in a setting of obese patients previously unknown to harbour glucose metabolism abnormalities.