The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is donating millions of dollars to research that will determine if vitamin D supplements are effective in preventing type 2 diabetes. Over 20 health centers around the United States have been tasked with identifying the healthy qualities of vitamin D and how they are able to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

“This study aims to definitively answer the question: Can vitamin D reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes?” said Myrlene Staten, M.D., D2d project officer at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Upwards of 2,500 volunteers who suffer from prediabetes, or blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, were recruited for the study’s sample. Half of the group will receive a daily dose of 4,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D while the other half will receive a placebo. A total of 600-800 IUs of vitamin D are recommended as the typical adult intake for each day.

Participants will be asked to return to their health care provider twice a year for routine checkups, and the study will continue until enough people have developed diabetes to make a scientific comparison. Researchers will also screen for the effects of sex, age, and race on vitamin D’s potential to reduce diabetes risk.

“Vitamin D use has risen sharply in the U.S. in the last 15 years, since it has been suggested as a remedy for a variety of conditions, including prevention of type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Staten added. “But we need rigorous testing to determine if vitamin D will help prevent diabetes. That’s what D2d will do.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, around 25.8 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes, accounting for 8.3 percent of the population. A total of 231,404 death certificates were contributed to type 2 diabetes in 2007.

Developing type 2 diabetes can also lead to various other health concerns, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation. Diabetes is considered the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in adults over the age of 20. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a stroke.

“An estimated 79 million Americans have prediabetes, and nearly 26 million more have diabetes,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “With D2d, we seek evidence for an affordable and accessible way to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.”