DALLAS — Charles Koch, 74, goes nowhere without his bag of "lifesavers," but it's not candy.
"I have my insulin and my syringes,” Koch said as he opened his bag.
As a diabetic for 20 years, Koch would have loved to avoid daily injections.
"You figure out three a day for a couple of years... then five a day for the remainder of the years,” he said. "It's quite a few punctures."
Now doctors want to see if a simple vitamin D supplement might be the "magic pill" when it comes to diabetes prevention.
"We know that many patients who are vitamin D deficient are likely to develop diabetes later on in their life,” explained Dr. Naim Maalouf, an endocrinologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "There are also animal studies that suggest that giving vitamin D to animals can prevent diabetes. However, we don't know for a fact whether we give vitamin D to pre-diabetics, whether that would prevent diabetes in humans, and that's the study that we are planning on conducting.”
Dr. Naim Maalouf and doctors at UT Southwestern are conducting one arm of a nationwide clinical trial to determine if vitamin D can prevent Type 2 diabetes. The nationwide study, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, will enroll about 2,500 volunteers.
According to the American Diabetes Association, about 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, more than three times the number of people with the full-blown disease.
Researchers are looking for about 200 pre-diabetic volunteers in the North Texas area over the age of 30. Participants will be followed and receive free associated medical care for about four years. The trial is a double-blinded study, which means participants won’t know if they are receiving the vitamin D or a placebo.
The research will also examine whether gender, age, or race play a role into the effects of vitamin D on reducing diabetes.
“One theory is that people who are inactive, physically not very active or outgoing, are going to develop diabetes, but also are vitamin D deficient,” Dr. Maalouf said. “The two may not be totally connected. There's another line of thought that vitamin D deficiency by itself predisposes to diabetes and lack of insulin production. That's why we're conducting the study.”
Charles Koch isn’t eligible for this study, but is excited that the results could save others from years of needle pricks and expensive medications he has had to endure.
“I would've been right out to the first store that sold vitamin D, because — trust me — that's much better than taking the shots,” he said.
Diabetes patients also face the possibility of complications including amputations, kidney failure, and death.
People interested in taking part in the UT Southwestern part of the trial can call 214-DIABETES (214-342-2383). A free blood test will determine qualification.