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Vitamin D used to be discussed simply in the context of rickets, the dramatic weakening and softening of bones caused by severe calcium and phosphorous deficiency (a condition directly linked to severe vitamin D deficiency).

For many years, this myopic view kept the medical mainstream’s focus on preserving only the minimum levels of vitamin D necessary to maintain bone health. While warding off rickets is certainly a worthy goal, it’s just one of vitamin D’s countless functions.

Though we’ve known of vitamin D’s vital and multi-faceted role in maintaining health for some time, only in recent years have we begun to take this knowledge to heart.

Even the mainstream now acknowledges that vitamin D—which isn’t just a vitamin, but actually a steroid hormone—directly affects nearly every cell in your body. It’s essential for the health of every major system in the body—it protects the heart and brain, bolsters the immune system, ensures the integrity and proper signaling of cells throughout the body, prevents mood imbalances and mental illnesses, and even facilitates DNA repair. And that’s just scratching the surface.

One of the more unexpected ways benefits of this essential nutrient is its ability to prevent and heal insulin resistance and diabetes.

Vitamin D deficiency and diabetes risk

Researchers have suspected for some time that vitamin D plays a role in healthy glucose metabolism, but recent studies have confirmed that it’s even more invaluable than previously thought. In fact, vitamin D deficiency may be more closely linked to the development of type 2 diabetes than obesity (which was once considered one of its greatest risk factors).

Researchers determined this link by observing that individuals with low vitamin D serum levels are dramatically more likely to be pre-diabetic or diabetic, regardless of their weight.[1] In other words, vitamin D deficiency is an even more accurate predictor of your diabetes risk than whether or not you’re overweight.

The exciting takeaway of this study is that you can significantly lower your risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by maintaining optimal vitamin D serum levels (40-60 ng/ml).

This prescription is supported by other studies too, including one that conclusively demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation can prevent pre-diabetes from progressing into fully developed type 2 diabetes. Astoundingly, every unit increase in vitamin D levels decreased study participants’ risk of progressing into diabetes by 8%.[2]

Natural healing for diabetics

And vitamin D’s diabetes-healing abilities aren’t limited to prevention—many studies have demonstrated that raising vitamin D levels can aid those who already have diabetes, as well.

One prominent study found that type 2 diabetics who were given 50,000 IU of vitamin D per week for eight weeks experienced reductions in both fasting plasma glucose and insulin,[3] and another study demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation increased insulin sensitivity by a whopping 54%.[4]

While the mechanisms by which vitamin D works its magic are complex, there are a couple notable reasons why it’s particularly healing for metabolic disorders. For starters, studies have shown that vitamin D is one of the primary factors that regulate and normalize insulin secretion.[5] Other experts believe that its effect upon calcium and phosphorous metabolism (the mechanism by which it keeps bones strong) is linked to a modulation of glucose metabolism (and thus to insulin sensitivity). Vitamin D even heals diabetes epigenetically by upregulating (i.e. “turning on”) the gene that controls insulin receptors, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity.[6]

So whether you’re already living with diabetes or simply want to prevent its onset, maintaining optimal vitamin D serum levels is a wise choice.

Get tested and take action

First things first: get your vitamin D level tested in order to determine whether you have a deficiency (the test can easily be ordered by any doctor, and there are many at-home test kits available too). If you’ve never supplemented with vitamin D, you’re probably deficient, but it’s still helpful to know exactly how far your serum levels are from optimal.

Next, make a plan that allows you to maintain an optimal level of 40-60 ng/ml year-round. Sun exposure is the easiest and most powerful way to get vitamin D (contrary to popular opinion, sun avoidance is much more dangerous than the sun itself). Depending on your skin tone, 8-24 minutes of direct sun exposure (on as much of your body as possible) will allow your body to manufacture all the vitamin D it needs.

This approach poses problems during non-summer months, though (especially in northern latitudes), so you’ll need to get your vitamin D from other sources too. Eating vitamin-D-rich foods like fatty fish, eggs, and vitamin-D-fortified products are a good start, but supplementation is by far your best option.

Make sure you supplement with D3 (not D2), and seek out a formula with liposomal delivery, which vastly increases its absorbability.

Most importantly, don’t put this off! Making the effort to maintain healthy vitamin D levels just might be one of the simplest and most powerful ways you can optimize your health on every level.


References

[1] http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/tes-vdd021815.php

[2] http://www.nephrologynews.com/raising-low-vitamin-d-levels-lowers-risk-of-prediabetes-progressing-to-diabetes-in-study/

[3] https://dmsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1758-5996-5-8

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9516221?dopt=Abstract

[5] http://www.eje-online.org/content/105/4/528.short

[6] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cbf.951/abstract

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cinnamon-sticks-and-powder-on-wooden-table

Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest and most popular spices, and for good reason. Despite its far-flung origins, it’s become part of the Western world’s mainstream spice repertoire.

Its sweet, alluring scent and taste secured it a prominent place in the spice trade of the ancient world. Various civilizations discovered a number of powerfully medicinal uses for it too, and included it in their herbal pharmacopeias.

The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent for pharaohs and other prominent members of society, and Ayurvedic practitioners in India include (and continue to include) it as a substance of primary importance in their highly sophisticated healing system. The Romans even used it as currency.

For these reasons and more, cinnamon was once more valuable than gold.

Luckily, cinnamon is available nowadays at a much more reasonable price…and it certainly hasn’t gotten any less healing over the years.

Modern medicine is finally starting to rediscover the many health benefits of cinnamon, thanks to society’s renewed interest in the healing power of food.

Here’s the catch, though: not all cinnamon is created equal, and you need to seek out a certain kind in order to take advantage of its beneficial properties.

We’ll talk about the different kinds of cinnamon at the end of this article. First, let’s dive in to some of this prized spice’s time-tested healing properties.

A powerful antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory

For starters, cinnamon is packed with a number of compounds—like cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for its rich aroma and flavor—that have strong antioxidant effects in the body.[1]

As we’ve discussed in other articles, protecting the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals is absolutely essential in today’s toxic and stressful world.  Doing so ensures that your immune system, detoxification mechanisms, and cellular metabolism function much more efficiently—which means more energy, less frequent illness, and greater longevity.

Cinnamon outshines tons of other antioxidant-rich foods—even immune-boosting powerhouses like garlic and oregano, and nearly every other spice (with the exception of turmeric).

Many of the polyphenol antioxidants that cinnamon contains are also potently anti-inflammatory.[2] This one-two punch relieves aches and pains, strengthens the immune system, and lowers the risk disease (many health experts maintain that inflammation is the root of all illness).  

Fight illness and disease naturally

These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties work wonders for preventing illness and disease.

Not only can cinnamon stave off colds and other infections, but a number of studies have even shown it to be effective in the prevention of various cancers[3] and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s[4] and Parkinson’s.[5]

And cinnamon is also great at actively fighting disease once it’s already set in. In fact, it’s an impressively sophisticated full-spectrum pathogen fighter—meaning that it effectively combats bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Cinnamaldehyde—the cinnamon-scented, oily compound mentioned above—kills harmful bacteria and fungi without wreaking havoc on your beneficial bacteria (it works especially well for respiratory infections).

Preliminary research even suggests that cinnamon helps fight the HIV virus (out of 69 promising medicinal plants, it was proclaimed to be the most effective of all).[6]

Help out your heart and your pancreas

Compelling studies also show that cinnamon consumption can drastically reduce the risk of heart disease.

This is partially due to its anti-inflammatory activity, but its work extends even deeper too. The studies found that 1 gram of cinnamon per day lowered LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and triglycerides, increased HDL (the “good” kind), and reduced blood pressure.[7]   

These effects can also be tremendously beneficial for diabetics, who are at much higher risk for developing heart disease.

Good for Your Blood Sugar

In fact, cinnamon is an all-around fantastic ally for diabetics: at slightly higher daily doses (2-6 grams per day), cinnamon can even increase insulin sensitivity and reduce fasting blood sugar levels by up to 29%.[8] It accomplishes this feat by reducing the amount of glucose that is released into the bloodstream and by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract.

So no matter what your health needs and priorities are, it’s worth it to incorporate this delicious and versatile spice into our daily routine.

Just make sure to use the RIGHT kind of cinnamon

Now back to that “catch” I mentioned earlier.

There’s actually two main types of cinnamon. One is known as Ceylon cinnamon (or “true cinnamon”). This is the good stuff—the treasured spice that will provide you with all the benefits discussed above.

The other type is Cassia cinnamon (which is sometimes crudely referred to as “bastard cinnamon”). Despite its unseemly nickname, this is the type of cinnamon that is most commonly found in stores.

It lacks many of the healing properties of Ceylon cinnamon, and actually contains a compound called coumarin, which can act as a dangerous blood thinner in higher doses (for this reason, cinnamon is contraindicated for people taking blood thinners, but this danger doesn’t exist with “true” cinnamon).

Cassia cinnamon will undoubtedly continue to be the more widely available variety, because it’s cheaper and more easily sourced. So if you want to reap all the benefits that cinnamon can provide, always seek out Ceylon cinnamon.

Ceylon cinnamon’s flavor is wonderfully refined and sophisticated, so you certainly won’t be sacrificing any enjoyment. It will remind you that cinnamon is not only one of the world’s healthiest spices, but also one of the most delicious.

 


References

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3105590/

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433898

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24946862

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11094851

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14633804

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19930003

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