|Sunlight & Vitamin D|
Sunlight and Vitamin D
The same vitamin D deficiency that can result in weak bones now has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Framingham Heart Study researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
"Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, above and beyond established cardiovascular risk factors," said Thomas J. Wang, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. "The higher risk associated with vitamin D deficiency was particularly evident among individuals with high blood pressure."
In a study of 1,739 offspring from Framingham Heart Study participants (average age 59, all Caucasian), researchers found that those with blood levels of vitamin D below 15 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) had twice the risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, heart failure or stroke in the next five years compared to those with higher levels of vitamin D.
When researchers adjusted for traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, the risk remained significant with a 62 percent higher risk of a cardiovascular event in participants with low levels of vitamin D compared to those with higher levels.
Researchers observed the highest rate of cardiovascular disease events in subset analysis dividing 688 participants according to high blood pressure status. After researchers adjusted for conventional cardiovascular risk factors, participants with hypertension and a vitamin D deficiency had about 2 times the risk of having a cardiovascular disease event in five years.
Researchers also found an increase in cardiovascular risk with each level of vitamin D deficiency.
"We found that people with low vitamin D levels had a higher rate of cardiovascular events over the five-year follow-up period," Wang said. "These results are intriguing and suggestive but need to be followed up with further study."
Study participants had no prior cardiovascular disease and were tested for vitamin D status and then followed for an average of 5.4 years.
The participants attended the offspring examinations between 1996 and 2001. Researchers obtained medical history, physical examinations and laboratory assessments of vascular risk factors. They also obtained medical records related to cardiovascular disease.
Overall, 28 percent of individuals had levels of vitamin D below15 ng/mL and 9 percent had levels below 10 ng/mL. Although levels above 30 ng/mL are considered optimal for bone metabolism, only 10 percent of the study sample had levels in this range, researchers said.
* 120 participants developed a first cardiovascular event including fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease;
* 28 participants had fatal or nonfatal cerebrovascular events such as nonhemorrhagic stroke;
* 19 participants were diagnosed with heart failure; and
* 8 had occurrences of claudication, fatigue in the legs during activity.
"Low levels of vitamin D are highly prevalent in the United States, especially in areas without much sunshine," Wang said. "Twenty to 30 percent of the population in many areas has moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency."
Most of this is attributed to lack of sun exposure, pigmented skin that prevents penetration of the sun's rays and inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D enriched foods, researchers said.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that low levels of vitamin D may adversely affect the cardiovascular system," Wang said. "Vitamin D receptors have a broad tissue distribution that includes vascular smooth muscle and endothelium, the inner lining of the body's vessels.
Our data raise the possibility that treating vitamin D deficiency, via supplementation, lifestyle and dietary measures, could reduce cardiovascular risk.
According to Dr. Robert O. Young, a research scientist for the pH Miracle Center, states, "the best source of Vitamin D is from direct sunlight with a minimum daily dose of 30 minutes a day."
"This daily dose of Vitamin D is helpful in buffering dietary and metabolic acids and energizing the body."
"Direct sunlight is the fastest way of recharging the body cells with Vitamin D - one of the body's most powerful anti-oxidants in helping to maintain its alkaline design."
Lack of direct sunlight may increase the risk of acidic or cancerous lungs, suggests a study of rates of the dis-ease in over 100 countries, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Over one million people every year around the globe die from acidic or cancerous lungs.
The researchers looked at the association between latitude, exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) light, and rates of acidic or cancerous lungs according to age in 111 countries across several continents.
They took account of the amount of cloud cover and aerosol use, both of which absorb UVB light, and cigarette smoking, the primary cause of acidic or cancerous fermenting/moldy lungs.
International databases, including those of the World Health Organization, and national health statistics were used.
Smoking was most strongly associated with acidic or cancerous lung rates, accounting for between 75% and 85% of the cases.
But exposure to sunlight, especially UVB light, the principal source of vitamin D for the body, also seemed to have an impact, the findings showed.
The amount of UVB light increases with proximity to the equator. And the analysis showed that acidic or cancerous lung rates were highest in those countries furthest away from the equator and lowest in those nearest.
Higher cloud cover and airborne aerosol levels were also associated with higher rates of the dis-ease.
In men, the prevalence of smoking was associated with higher rates of acidic or cancerous lungs, while greater exposure to UVB light was associated with lower rates.
Among women, cigarette smoking, total cloud cover, and airborne aerosols were associated with higher rates of acidic or cancerous lungs, while greater exposure to UVB light was associated with lower rates.
The associations for a protective role for UVB light persisted after adjusting for smoking.
The link between acidic or cancerous lungs and sunlight is chemically plausible, say the authors, because laboratory research has shown that vitamin D can halt tumor growth by promoting the factors responsible for cell transformation in the body.
"Although cigarette smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, greater UVB exposure may reduce the incidence of the disease," they conclude.
According to Dr. Robert O. Young, a research scientist at the pH Miracle Center states, "UBV exposure is alkalizing to the blood and tissues and thus helps to reduce dietary and metabolic acids that can cause acidic or cancerous lungs or skin."
"Twenty to thirty minutes a day of direct sunlight can help reduce dietary and metabolic acids that can ferment tissue and cause the condition we call cancer," states Dr. Young.
Dr. Robert J. Rowen, MD
Second Opinion Health Alert
For decades we've heard the myth that flu strikes in winter because of the colder weather. But numerous studies have all debunked that theory. Studies have shown that flu hits the tropics in their "winter" when it's still quite warm (usually during the rainy season).
No, there's another reason flu hits in winter. And it gives you an easy way to stop the flu before it hits. And it doesn't involve getting a flu shot.
We already know that our bodies produce a lot less vitamin D during the winter. But is it possible the reduced vitamin D levels in winter contribute to the flu?
The evidence is there. Years ago, an observant British general practitioner, R. Edgar Hope-Simpson, connected influenza epidemics in the northern hemisphere with winter solstice. So, flu hits right when vitamin D levels begin to plummet. Conventional medicine has largely ignored his work, until now.
Just this year, two major medical journals released a report written by Dr. John Cannell, a California psychiatrist at the Atascadero State Hospital in California. This is a maximum security facility for the criminally insane. In his report, Dr. Cannell noted that wards all around his got hit hard with a severe flu-like outbreak in April 2005. None of his 32 patients caught the flu - even after they mingled with infected inmates from other wards.
Dr. Cannell wondered why his ward avoided the flu when it hit all the others. He soon realized it was the high doses of vitamin D he prescribed to all the men on his ward. He had found that his patients, like most other people in the industrial world, had a deficiency. (He must be one of the very few psychiatrists that pays attention to nutrition!) His efforts to correct the deficiency boosted their immune system and completely protected them from the flu.
Why does it work? Science recently discovered that vitamin D stimulates your white blood cells to make a substance called cathelicidin. Researchers haven't studied this chemical on the flu virus yet, but they have previously reported that it attacks a wide variety of pathogens. These include fungi, viruses, bacteria, and even tuberculosis.
So, it turns out that my suggestions for you to have your vitamin D levels checked this time of year were right on target. But now, armed with this new information, I don't even think it's necessary to spend the money on a test. Vitamin D is cheap. And it stimulates your body to make what might be the ultimate antibiotic! One with no toxicity at all and only kills those organisms invading you (not your own cells).
Arm yourself with the incredible protection of vitamin D. Get sunlight when you can. Just be sure not to burn. If you are mostly indoors, I strongly suggest that you add vitamin D to your daily regimen. I recommend 5,000 IU per day. I see no downside to this dose, especially in the winter months!
Yours for better health and medical freedom,
Robert Jay Rowen, MD
Ref: FASEB Journal July 2006; Epidemiology and Infection, online, December 2006.
Second Opinion Health Alerts are a complimentary
e-mail service from the Second Opinion health
newsletter written by Robert J. Rowen, MD.
VITAMIN D SOURCES
Sunlight: Ultraviolet rays trigger the formation of vitamin D in the skin, accounting for 90 percent of the daily recommended intake.
5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily in the summer are recommended. Particularly in northern areas, it is difficult to produce in the winter.
Foods: Oily fish naturally contain vitamin D.
FOOD SOURCE INTERNATIONAL UNITS
Cod liver oil (1 tbs.) 1,360
Salmon, cooked (3 1/2 oz.) 360
Dry cereal (3/4 cup) 40-50
DAILY ALLOWANCE RECOMMENDATIONS
In international units (IU), by age
50 to 70: 400
Older than 70: 600
Many vitamin D experts recommend 1,000 IU daily for everyone.
Vitamin D-related health risks
Rickets: A disease in which children's bones soften, break.
Osteopororis: A condition characterized by fragile bones.
Osteomalacia: A bone-thinning disorder in adults that is similar to rickets.
Vitamin D malnutrition also may be linked to diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Sources: National Institute of health, National Osteoporosis Society
risk of cancers by 77 percent
Exciting new research conducted at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska has revealed that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium can reduce your risk of cancer by an astonishing 77 percent. This includes breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer and other forms of cancer. This research provides strong new evidence that vitamin D is the single most effective medicine against cancer, far outpacing the benefits of any cancer drug known to modern science.
The study involved 1,179 healthy women from rural Nebraska. One group of women was given calcium (around 1500 mg daily) and vitamin D (1100 IU daily) while another group was given placebo. Over four year, the group receiving the calcium and vitamin D supplements showed a 60 percent decrease in cancers. Considering just the last three years of the study reveals an impressive 77 percent reduction in cancer due to supplementation. (The full press release of this study is included below. It provides more details about the findings.)
Note that these astonishing effects were achieved on what many nutritionists consider to be a low dose of vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight, which creates even more vitamin D in the body, was not tested or considered, and the quality of the calcium supplements was likely not as high as it could have been (it was probably calcium carbonate and not high-grade calcium malate, aspartate or similar forms). What does all this mean? It means that if you take high-quality calcium supplements and get lots of natural sunlight exposure or take premium vitamin D supplements (such as those made from fish oil), you could easily have a greater reduction than the 77 percent reduction recorded in this study.
Preventing cancer the healthy way
Take long walks in the sun with no shirt on, and don't wear sunscreen. Soak up the sun's rays for many hours each week, and you'll never get a sun burn if you eat lots of antioxidant-rich superfoods, berries and fresh produce.
Drink a raw superfood smoothie each morning, made of fresh produce and superfoods such as chocolate (with raw cacao, coconut oil or macadamia nut oil, raw avocado, quinoa, banana and almond milk) and super berry (fresh berries, freeze-dried berries, stevia, aloe vera gel, fresh cucumber or watermelon and celery).
Put no personal care products on your skin whatsoever: No deodorants, no fragrance, no skin creams, no cosmetics and no sunscreen. This alone saves you from exposure to hundreds of cancer-causing toxic chemicals added to personal care products. Refuse to use chemical laundry detergent and, instead, use natural laundry soap that grows on trees: Natural Chinese soap berries that are a replacement for chemical laundry detergents.
OMAHA, Neb., June 8 -- Most Americans and others are not taking enough vitamin D, a fact that may put them at significant risk for developing cancer, according to a landmark study conducted by Creighton University School of Medicine.
The four-year, randomized study followed 1,179 healthy, postmenopausal women from rural eastern Nebraska.* Participants taking calcium, as well as a quantity of vitamin D3 nearly three times the U.S. government's Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for middle-age adults, showed a dramatic 60 percent or greater reduction in cancer risk than women who did not get the vitamin.
The results of the study, conducted between 2000 and 2005, were reported in the June 8 online edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"The findings are very exciting. They confirm what a number of vitamin D proponents have suspected for some time but that, until now, have not been substantiated through clinical trial," said principal investigator Joan Lappe, Ph.D., R.N., Creighton professor of medicine and holder of the Criss/Beirne Endowed Chair in the School of Nursing. "Vitamin D is a critical tool in fighting cancer as well as many other diseases."
Other Creighton researchers involved in the study included Robert Recker, M.D.; Robert Heaney, M.D.; Dianne Travers-Gustafson, M.S.; and K. Michael Davies, Ph.D.
Research participants were all 55 years and older and free of known cancers for at least 10 years prior to entering the Creighton study. Subjects were randomly assigned to take daily dosages of 1,400-1,500 mg supplemental calcium, 1,400-1,500 mg supplemental calcium plus 1,100 IU of vitamin D3, or placebos. National Institutes of Health funded the study.
Over the course of four years, women in the calcium/vitamin D3 group experienced a 60 percent decrease in their cancer risk than the group taking placebos.
On the premise that some women entered the study with undiagnosed cancers, researchers then eliminated the first-year results and looked at the last three years of the study. When they did that, the results became even more dramatic with the calcium/vitamin D3 group showing a startling 77 percent cancer-risk reduction.
In the three-year analysis, there was no statistically significant difference in cancer incidence between participants taking placebos and those taking just calcium supplements.
Through the course of the study, 50 participants developed nonskin cancers, including breast, colon, lung and other cancers.
Lappe said further studies are needed to determine whether the Creighton research results apply to other populations, including men, women of all ages, and different ethnic groups. While the study was open to all ethnic groups, all participants were Caucasian, she noted.
There is a growing body of evidence that a higher intake of vitamin D may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cancer, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.
Humans make their own vitamin D3 when they are exposed to sunlight. In fact, only 10-15 minutes a day in a bright summer sun creates large amounts of the vitamin, Lappe said. However, people need to exercise caution since the sun's ultraviolet B rays also can cause skin cancer; sunscreen blocks most vitamin D production.
In addition, the latitude at which you live and your ancestry also influence your body's ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D. People with dark skin have more difficulty making the vitamin. Persons living at latitudes north of the 37th parallel -- Omaha is near the 41st parallel -- cannot get their vitamin D naturally during the winter months because of the sun's angle. Experts generally agree that the RDA** for vitamin D needs to be increased substantially, however there is debate about the amount. Supplements are available in two forms -- vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Creighton researchers recommend vitamin D3, because it is more active and thus more effective in humans.
**RDA recommendations for vitamin D are 200 IU/d, birth-age 50; 400 IU/d, 50-70 years; and 600 IU/d, 70 years and older.
Sunlight prevents cancer and Insufficient exposure to ultraviolet radiation may be an important risk factor for cancer in western Europe and North America, according to the author of a new study that directly contradicts official advice about sunlight.
The research, published this week in the journal Cancer (2002;94:1867-75), examined cancer mortality in the United States. Deaths from a range of cancers of the reproductive and digestive systems were approximately twice as high in New England as in the south west, despite a diet that varies little between regions.
An examination of 506 regions found a close inverse correlation between cancer mortality and levels of ultraviolet B light. The likeliest mechanism for a protective effect of sunlight is vitamin D, which is synthesised by the body in the presence of ultraviolet B.
The study’s author, Dr William Grant, says northern parts of the United States may be dark enough in winter that vitamin D synthesis shuts down completely. While the study focused on white Americans, the same geographical trend affects black Americans, whose overall cancer rates are significantly higher. Darker skinned people require more sunlight to synthesise vitamin D.
"There are 13 malignancies that show this inverse correlation, mostly reproductive and digestive cancers," said Dr Grant. "The strongest inverse correlation is with breast, colon, and ovarian cancer."
Other cancers apparently affected by sunlight include tumours of the bladder, uterus, oesophagus, rectum, and stomach.
The paper estimates that in 2002 insufficient exposure to ultraviolet B among Americans will lead to about 85 000 additional cancers out of 1 285 000 projected cases and 30 000 additional deaths out of 555 000 projected deaths, compared with what would occur if the entire country could obtain the same ultraviolet B levels as the southern states.
The total number of additional deaths that might occur in the United States from melanoma and other skin cancers with the same increased level of ultraviolet B would be about 3000. "Current advice about avoiding sunlight is very parochial," said Dr Grant. "It’s a dermatologist’s viewpoint."
Another study by Dr Grant, published in a previous issue of Cancer (2002;94:272-81), looked at rates of breast cancer in 35 countries. That study attributed 25% of cases of breast cancer in Europe to insufficient exposure to ultraviolet B.
"The correlation between breast cancer and latitude in Europe becomes clearest when Scandinavia is removed from the analysis, probably because they get so much vitamin D from fish consumption," he said. "They also put vitamin D in their milk."
Vitamin D supplements in pill form are cheap and readily available, but it is not known whether they can act as a direct substitute for vitamin D synthesised from sunlight. BMJ 2002;324:696
A connection between vitamin D level and the risk of developing cancerous breasts has been implicated for a long time, but its clinical relevance had not yet been proven. Sascha Abbas and colleagues from the working group headed by Dr. Jenny Chang-Claude at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ), collaborating with researchers of the University Hospitals in Hamburg-Eppendorf, have now obtained clear results:
While previous studies had concentrated chiefly on nutritional vitamin D, the researchers have now investigated the complete vitamin D status. To this end, they studied 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) as a marker for both endogenous vitamin D and vitamin D from food intake.
The result of the study involving 1,394 cancerous breast patients and an equal number of healthy women after menopause was surprisingly clear: Women with a very low blood level of 25(OH)D have a considerably increased risk for cancerous breasts. The effect was found to be strongest in women who were not taking acidic cancerous causing hormones for relief of menopausal symptoms. However, the authors note that, in this retrospective study, diagnosis-related factors such as chemotherapy or lack of sunlight after prolonged hospital stays might have contributed to low vitamin levels of breast cancer patients.
In addition, the investigators focused on the vitamin D receptor. The gene of this receptor is found in several variants known as polymorphisms.The research team of the DKFZ and Eppendorf Hospitals investigated the effect of four of these polymorphisms on the risk of developing cancerous breasts. They found out that carriers of the Taql polymorphism have a slightly increased risk of cancerous acidic tumors that carry receptors for the female acidic sex hormone estrogen on their surface. No effects on the overall breast cancer risk were found. A possible explanation offered by the authors is that vitamin D can exert its cancerous-preventing effect by counteracting the growth-promoting effect of the acidic estrogens.
Besides its cancerous-preventing influence with effects on cell growth, cell differentiation and programmed cell death (apoptosis), vitamin D regulates, above all, the calcium metabolism in our body. Foods that are particularly rich in vitamin D include cod liver oil, green fruits and veggies. However, the largest portion of vitamin D is produced by our own body with the aid of sunlight.
"The warmer months entice people of all ages to come forth from their winter havens - and most need to be reminded about the importance of alkaline skin and sun protection. From young children to teens to mature adults, there are dozens of simple ways to change acidic skin to alkaline skin and protecting the skin from the sun rays crystallizing the acids on the skin causing a reddening of the skin to cancer prevention," states Dr. Robert O. Young, of the pH Miracle Living Center.
Carol Drucker, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and board-certified dermatologist, knows sun protection is a lifelong necessity for everyone; the earlier individuals start, the better. From her experience at M. D. Anderson, the nation's top-ranked cancer center, Drucker has considerable expertise on reducing skin cancer risk, and has helpful summer skin care tips for every age.
* Sunscreen should not be applied to babies younger than six months. Instead, cover babies and limit direct exposure to the sun to the extent possible.
* Make applying a waterproof sunscreen part of a toddler's routine before getting dressed every day. "It's important to find a sunscreen that kids can tolerate - not too heavy or greasy, so it feels good on the skin," says Drucker. "Parents may be surprised by how quickly their child becomes accustomed to this daily ritual."
* Try not to schedule outdoor activity between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and seek playgrounds where shade - from trees or awnings -- is plentiful. If your child has to be outdoors during these hours, be sure they're protected from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, etc.
* "Teens do especially well with products that have built in SPF," advises Drucker. Teen girls who wear makeup should choose from the variety of products that include sunscreen. "Since it fits into products they already use, it's a painless step that provides valuable sun protection."
* Quit tanning beds. They emit the same harmful UV rays as sunlight and are used at dangerous rates. Also never use tanning creams, they are highly acidic and react to the skin.
* Wear hats as a trendy accessory. Drucker notes sun damage frequently occurs on the face. "This season it's easy for teens to stock up on cute, stylish hats that will also shield their face in the sun."
* Be aware that the window glass in cars does not block all of the sun's rays, making the driver's left side more prone to sun damage. Solutions Drucker offers include applying sunscreen before long car rides or installing shades or specialized tinting in car windows.
* Sun-proof hair. The top of the head becomes increasingly at risk for sun damage as hair thins or if the hair is parted. Style using chemical free shampoos and conditioners.
* Apply non-toxic chemical free sunscreen to oft-forgotten areas - the top of ears, back of hands, neck and toes. Drucker warns, "These are four places that get a lot of incidental sun exposure."
* It is little known that wind intensifies the sun rays, says Drucker. "People should be especially careful during water sports or windy days at the beach when the chapping and burning effect of the wind acts as an additive to UV rays and can increase their risk of burning," she explains.
"Sunscreen itself may even cause cancer. Five chemicals commonly used in sunscreens have been found to behave like estrogen and stimulate tumor growth and the spread of cancer cells... Make your own non-toxic chemical free and alkaline sunscreen from vitamin C powder (ascorbic acid). It protects the skin from both UV-B and UV-A damage, while actually making it healthier. Simply mix the powder, which is widely available, with water or some form of cream and apply it to your skin. Reapply after 30 to 60 minutes."
Despite increased education on becoming sun smart, the incidence of skin cancer appears to be rising.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 600,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, and the figure is rising. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and is responsible for 8,500 deaths annually.
A hypothesis for this phenomenon is two-fold according to Dr. Young:
1) Most people have acidic skin with a pH of below 5. The radiation from the sun reacts with the acids on the skin causing acid crystals and damage to the skin cells leading to cancer, and,
2) Harmful acidic chemicals lurking in cosmetics and sunscreens are reacting with the radiation of the sun damaging the cells of the skin leading to skin cancer.
International studies found the greatest rise in melanoma occurred in countries where chemical sunscreens are heavily promoted.
Dr. Young, states that, "commercially available cosmetics, lotions and sunscreens might damage people's skin when it reacts with radiation from the sun."
The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) in the June 2007 study where 785 sunscreens were analyzed showed that 84 percent provided inadequate protection from the sun's radiation or contained ingredients with safety concerns.
Some experts suggest that many sunscreen formulas may be cancer causing. The harmful chemicals identified include allergy-creating PABA, benzophenone-3, homosalate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC) and 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC). While these chemicals protect skin from sun damage, experts have indicated the chemical octyl methoxycinnamate, which is present in 90 percent of sunscreen brands, was found to kill mouse cells even at low doses.
Recent studies on childhood illnesses linked these findings to a possible cause of ADHD, asthma and allergies.
Some sunscreen ingredients also change estrogen levels in the body affecting DNA and causing cell damage by creating an abundance of hydrogen ions or acids.
Powerful antioxidants such as Tea Tree Oil and Grapefruit Seed extract; Apricot Oil, Avocado Oil, Almond Oil, Zinc and Vitamin E can also be used along with vitamin C powder to fight environmental stressors and to assist with skin reconstruction at a cellular level.
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
About 12 percent already are deficient, study finds
(HealthDay News) -- At least 40 percent of American infants and toddlers aren't getting enough vitamin D, according to researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston.
Twelve percent of the youngest children in the United States are already deficient in vitamin D, and another 28 percent are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, according to the study, which appears in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Because human breast milk lacks sufficient vitamin D, the number of babies in the research sample being breast-fed were important to the findings.
"These data underscore the fact that breast-fed infants should be supplemented with vitamin D," said study author Dr. Catherine Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children's Hospital in Boston. She added that mothers who are breast-feeding often need vitamin D supplements as well.
Breast-feeding is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levels in infants, which is why many pediatricians routinely recommend vitamin D supplementation for breast-fed infants. Other factors that may contribute to low levels of vitamin D include not drinking enough vitamin D-fortified milk (for toddlers), staying out of the sun or using sunscreen.
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced naturally when the body reacts to sunlight. However, the use of sunscreen and advice to stay out of the sun -- which is important for preventing skin cancer -- may also be reducing levels of vitamin D in people. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones because it helps the body absorb calcium.
In addition to helping maintain bone health, Gordon said that vitamin D also appears to play a role in maintaining the immune system and that people with low levels of vitamin D may be more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and to certain cancers.
Previously, Gordon and her colleagues studied vitamin D levels in adolescents and found very high levels -- about 42 percent -- of vitamin D deficiency in teens. That finding made them interested in assessing levels in younger children.
The current study included 380 children between 8 and 24 months old. About 80 percent were from urban areas, and the majority of the youngsters were black or Hispanic, according to the study. However, the study made no association between skin pigmentation and vitamin D levels.
For this study, the researchers defined severe vitamin D deficiency as blood levels of less than 8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), vitamin D deficiency as less than 20 ng/mL and suboptimal as less than 30 ng/mL. Gordon said there is some debate within the medical community about what truly signifies vitamin D deficiency, but that they felt current evidence supports the levels they used, and less than 20 ng/mL is the level her hospital uses as a cut-off point.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. James Taylor, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, said that although he believed the study was well done, Gordon and her colleagues used a "higher cut-off" than what has been used by other researchers.
But, he added, because Gordon's team found X-ray evidence of low bone density in children who fell into their category of low levels of vitamin D, "it might be that this might be an indication of long-term problems. If this is the case, then Gordon and colleagues might have picked the right definition. However, it might be that for many of the children with osteopenia [low bone density], the changes are transient and not indicative of disease. Time and more research will tell."
The key findings from the study, according to Gordon are:
Breast-feeding without vitamin D supplementation is a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency.
A higher body- mass index was associated with a risk of vitamin D deficiency.
There was no association between the seasons -- an indication of possible sun exposure -- and vitamin D deficiency.
There was no association between skin pigmentation and vitamin D deficiency.
Consumption of vitamin D-fortified milk confers protection against deficiency.
Gordon said it's very difficult to consume too much vitamin D, so she recommends vitamin D supplements for breast-feeding infants and lactating mothers. She also recommends a multivitamin containing vitamin D for older children.
Vitamin D and Diabetes
Sun exposure and vitamin D levels may play a strong role in risk of type 1 diabetes in children, according to new findings by researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. This association comes on the heels of similar research findings by this same group regarding vitamin D levels and several major cancers.
In this new study, the researchers found that populations living at or near the equator, where there is abundant sunshine (and ultraviolet B irradiance) have low incidence rates of type 1 diabetes. Conversely, populations at higher latitudes, where available sunlight is scarcer, have higher incidence rates. These findings add new support to the concept of a role of vitamin D in reducing risk of this dis-ease.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure triggers photosynthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin. This form of vitamin D also is available through diet and supplements.
"This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide," said Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., professor of Family and Preventive Medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine, and member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
The study is published June 5 in the online version of the scientific journal Diabetologia.
Type 1 diabetes is the second most common chronic dis-ease in children, second only to asthma. Every day, 1.5 million Americans deal with type 1 diabetes and its complications. About 15,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, where this dis-ease is the main cause of blindness in young and middle-aged adults and is among the top reasons for kidney failure and transplants in youth and midlife.
"This research suggests that childhood type 1 diabetes may be preventable with a modest intake of vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day) for children, ideally with 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight around noontime, when good weather allows," said Garland. "Infants less than a year old should not be given more than 400 IU per day without consulting a doctor. Hats and dark glasses are a good idea to wear when in the sun at any age, and can be used if the child will tolerate them."
The association of UVB irradiance to incidence of type 1 diabetes remained strong even after the researchers accounted for per capita health care expenditure. This was an important consideration because regions located near the equator tend to have lower per capita health care expenditures, which could result in under-reporting of type 1 diabetes.
The researchers created a graph with a vertical axis for diabetes incidence rates, and a horizontal axis for latitude. The latitudes range from -60 for the southern hemisphere, to zero for the equator, to +70 for the northern hemisphere. They then plotted incidence rates for 51 regions according to latitude. The resulting chart was a parabolic curve that looks like a smile.
In the paper the researchers call for public health action to address widespread vitamin D inadequacy in U.S. children.
"This study presents strong epidemiological evidence to suggest that we may be able to prevent new cases of type 1 diabetes," said Garland. "By preventing this disease, we would prevent its many devastating consequences."
Dr. Robert O. Young, a research scientist at the pH Miracle Center states, "the primary cause of type 1 diabetes is congestion and/or damage to the intestinal villi of the small intestine from ingesting protein and sugar. Children that are having problems with high blood sugars can reverse this quickly by getting off animal protein and sugar and starting an alkaline lifestyle and diet. One part of this diet includes nutritional supplementation of 1000 I.U.'s of vitamin D, liquid chlorophyll, healthy oils, alkaline water and or course liberal amounts of mineral salts."