Vitamin D Headlines

October 17, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

If you took a poll that asked people to identify the most popular vitamin in the world, you’d likely find that Vitamin C tops the list. But if you posed that same question to researchers who are currently conducting scientific studies, their answer would almost certainly be Vitamin D – and I’m not just referring to researchers in the field of nutritional science. Specialists from all over the medical map are expressing an interest in the role that the “sunshine vitamin” may play in conditions ranging from asthma to cardiovascular disease to diabetes, and even lesser known conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). These days, the scientific literature is simply lit up with references to ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3).

As you probably know, I like to focus on ways of maintaining optimal health throughout the aging process. The percentage of people living longer is growing and will continue to do so in the coming years. This wonderful consequence largely has to do with advancements in modern medicine. But this shift also presents some challenges that must be addressed. The stark reality is that quality of life often suffers during the “golden age”. In addition, the expense associated with medical care during this period can also be very problematic. One simple way of addressing these issues is maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels throughout maturity.

Falls are one of the leading causes medical complications in the elder population. A broken bone in a senior patient can lead to long term disability and a variety of significant medical consequences (the need for new medications, infection risk, hospital stays, surgical side effects, etc.). The good news is that fractures are largely preventable. The October issue of the British Medical Journal includes a meta-analysis of 8 high quality studies that examine the effects of Vitamin D supplementation on fall risk. The authors of this review determined that Vitamin D dosages of 700 – 1,000 IUs reduced the risk of falls by an average of 19%. Seniors with Vitamin D levels of 60 nmol/l or higher had a 23% reduced likelihood of falling. Based on these findings, the simple act of taking a daily Vitamin D supplement and/or testing for optimal Vitamin D levels should become a priority in order to promote greater health and safety in this vulnerable population. (1)

Two new observational trials also point to the promise of D in protecting against a few of the most common causes of disease and mortality worldwide. A study appearing in the October 13th issue of Diabetologia looked for a link between calcium and Vitamin D intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Almost 60,000 Japanese residents submitted food frequency questionnaires over a 5 year period. The researchers found that the participants who had the highest intake of Vitamin D along with calcium showed about a 40% decreased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. It’s interesting to note that dairy intake was only associated with a lower risk of diabetes in women. (2)

The October 15th edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology draws a correlation between higher blood concentrations of D and a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This study was conducted in Finland and involved 6,219 men and women. Over the course of 28 years, 640 of the study volunteers died of coronary disease and 293 passed away due to strokes (cerebrovascular disease). The participants with the highest levels of 25(OH)D (a blood marker for Vitamin D) were over 50% less likely to die of a stroke. There was a “non-significant” 9% reduction with regard to coronary deaths. The authors of the study concluded that “a low Vitamin D level may be associated with higher risk of a fatal CVD event, particularly cerebrovascular death”. (3)

There are also two new “controlled” studies that bear mention. These types of experiments are interventional trials that involve the use of a placebo as a means of comparison. The first study investigated whether there was a link between D levels and the insulin resistance that is related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a condition that affects between 5-10% of women during their reproductive years. It’s characterized by abnormal menstrual cycles, acne, excess hair growth (due to elevated testosterone levels) and obesity. This condition can also put women at an increased risk for certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A group of 11 women with PCOS participated in this current research. 9 of them were deficient in Vitamin D at the beginning of the trial. A high dosage of Vitamin D3 supplement (300,000 IUs) was administered on a single occasion. This brought all of the women’s Vitamin D levels into the “normal range”. Over the course of 3 weeks, the researchers also noted a trend toward improvement in blood glucose and insulin levels. This indicates the possibility that Vitamin D may be commonly lacking in this population and that it may partially counteract the problem of insulin resistance. (4)

A recent trial at the Medical University of Lodz, Poland discovered that the addition of Vitamin D to standard asthma care can protect against adverse reactions (to the medication). The co-administration of Vitamin D3 with prednisone prevented the immunosuppressive effects typically found in users of this corticosteroid medication. My hope is that further research will determine that the addition of D3 to corticosteroid therapies will allow for a safer treatment course. (5)

Source: British Medical Journal – Oct. 2009 (link)

Let’s say I pointed out two people in a crowd. One of them has a dark tan. The other is rather pale. You might suspect that the tanned person has higher levels of Vitamin D in their system. You could be right, but that isn’t a foregone conclusion according to a new study in the Journal of Investigational Dermatology. Researchers at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark tested to see whether skin pigmentation was a good measure of 25(OH)D status in a group of 50 study volunteers. The results they found were quite surprising. The impact on Vitamin D levels due to sun exposure was dependent on two factors: 1) the starting level of Vitamin D in the individuals; 2) the cholesterol level of the volunteers. In other words, those with higher cholesterol and lower Vitamin D reacted the strongest to sun exposure. The researchers also found that these factors held true in both dark and fair skinned individuals. Therefore, please keep in mind that the degree of skin tanning is not necessarily a good measure of Vitamin D levels. It’s important to also remember that the regular use of sunscreen tends to decrease Vitamin D concentrations. Lastly, I want to point out that the most current research available indicates that supplementation with Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is much more effective than with D2 (ergocalciferol). So please supplement wisely! (6,7,8)

I hope that the information I’ve provided today will encourage you to do one of two things. Ask your doctor to perform a 25(OH)D blood test to determine your Vitamin D status. This is the single best way to identify where you stand. If your doctor isn’t willing, you can personally order such tests via the Internet. A test kit will be sent to you at home along with simple instructions. You then send a tiny blood sample to a laboratory for testing and your results will be mailed back to you – usually in a matter of weeks. If neither of these options appeal to you, at the very least, I would suggest including a conservative amount of Vitamin D (a minimum of 1,000 IUs) into your daily supplement routine. I strongly believe this is an effective and safe way to guard against many of the ills we’ll face in the present and down the line. (9)

Be well!

JP

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Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Nutritional Supplements, Women's Health

12 Comments & Updates to “Vitamin D Headlines”

  1. Julie Hodges Says:

    Hey, this is great work. I wish I had come across it a year or so back.
    I didn’t personally realize how important Vitamin D was. I ended up extremely ill sort of like a Chronic Fatigue type thing. It took two years to finally stumble on the fact that my calcium level was extremely low. As was my vitamin D.

    I thought calcium simply worked with bones only. The pain I experienced in my body was as a result of low calcium in which effects how well the nerve impulses travel through the body.

    My work area is full of sunshine – so vitamin D didn’t appear to be the problem. It added to it because the vitamin d is not synthesised in the body when the sunlight goes through glass.

    Beware guys. For vitamin d to be useful to you it must be in contact with the skin not through glass, not through sunscreen.

    I hope that spares someone else some of the suffering I personally experienced. Thanks for your work with this article.
    I am following you now so look forward to learning more.

    Julie
    GJH.International Solutions

  2. Vadim Says:

    The product I’m currently using falls into the latter category – it contains high level of nutrients but also many food-based antioxidants and even some fish oil.

    Harry, I need something exactly like the description you gave above. I am not completely sold on synthetic vitamins. I am going through a lot of stress and recently found out my CRP is through the roof meaning it can be low grade chronic inflammation. I only hope it hasnt been for a long while. I havent been feeling good for many months now as you know. So I am basically looking for something that is higly potent, natural and effective. I understand that its called supplement for a reason and nothing can replace a good lifestyle, exercise, healthy diet and relaxation. Many people are looking for that majic pill. I know that there is no supplement on the market that can replace all of the above, but basically something that can be helpful. Every bit helps. Thanks!

  3. JP Says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience, Julie. I’m happy to know that you’ve identified the true cause of your dis-ease and addressed it. I certainly hope your journey will help inspire others to have their Vitamin D levels tested as well. It’s definitely worthwhile!

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Vadim,

    In case others read this, let me provide a little bit of context. In a prior post, you asked me to recommend a multi-vitamin/mineral for you.

    I’m going to mention two items. The first is the type of product you’ve asked about – a multi-nutrient formula. Some of the ingredients in it have been shown, in clinical studies, to lower CRP levels. In addition, I’m also going to share a product I’ve been trying out lately. It’s intended to help support a healthier response to stress and improved mood. I think you might benefit from that type of support in your current circumstance.

    BTW, the primary ingredient (Sensoril) in the “anti-stress/well-being” formula has also been shown to lower CRP levels as well.

    Multi-nutrient – http://www.vitacost.com/NSI-Synergy-3000-Multi-Vitamin-ToCoQ10-Mega-EFA

    Anti-Stress Mood Enhancer – http://www.naturalfactors.com/ca/en/products/695/stress-relax-serenity-formula-with-ashwagandha

    Please remember that combining such supplements with medication/surgery can be problematic. So, if you decide to start with them, please let your doctors know.

    I hope this information is helpful. Feel free to ask any follow up questions. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Vadim Says:

    Thanks, I will check them out!

  6. liverock Says:

    I started using grassroots health.net for the testing of my vit D levels because it appeared to be the cheapest way.

    You fill in a health questionnaire and get the test done for $40 by a pin prick test at home and send off to a laboratory.

    I have NFI in this company.

  7. JP Says:

    Thanks, Liverock. That sounds like a pretty reasonable deal.

    How long did it take you to get your test results? Also, if it’s not to personal a question … what was your test result? Were you surprised by your D level?

    Be well!

    JP

  8. liverock Says:

    My initial level of vitamin D was 67nmol/l(27ng/ml) which is the bottom end of normal.

    I wasnt surprised by this as I live in the UK which hasnt got the intensity of the sun on the west coast of the USA. Having said that it seems as we get older we cant make as much Vit D from the sun, according to the latest research, and older people who live in sunny climates are often deficient in Vit D.

    Since supplementing with 2,000iu/day the level has gone up to 98nmol/l(39ng/ml) in 4 months. The doctors at grassrootshealth reckon the level to aim for for maximum protection against cancer is 125nmol/l(50ng/ml).

    It takes about 7-14 days to get your results after testing.

  9. JP Says:

    Thanks, Liverock. :)

    I appreciate the feedback!

    Be well!

    JP

  10. JP Says:

    Update: A powerful new study …

    http://lup.sagepub.com/content/24/4-5/483.abstract

    Lupus. 2015 Apr;24(4-5):483-9.

    A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study adding high dose vitamin D to analgesic regimens in patients with musculoskeletal pain.

    BACKGROUND: The current mode of therapy for many patients with musculoskeletal pain is unsatisfactory.

    PURPOSE: We aimed to assess the impact of adding 4000 IU of vitamin D on pain and serological parameters in patients with musculoskeletal pain.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This was a randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled study assessing the effect of 4000 IU of orally given vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) (four gel capsules of 1000 IU, (SupHerb, Israel) vs. placebo on different parameters of pain. Eighty patients were enrolled and therapy was given for 3 months. Parameters were scored at three time points: prior to intervention, at week 6 and week 12. Visual analogue scale (VAS) scores of pain perception were recorded following 6 and 12 weeks. We also measured serum levels of leukotriene B4 (LTB4), interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) by ELISA.

    RESULTS: The group receiving vitamin D achieved a statistically significant larger decline of their VAS measurement throughout the study compared with the placebo group. The need for analgesic ‘rescue therapy’ was significantly lower among the vitamin D-treated group. TNFα levels decreased by 54.3% in the group treated with vitamin D and increased by 16.1% in the placebo group. PGE2 decreased by39.2% in the group treated with vitamin D and increased by 16% in the placebo group. LTB4 levels decreased in both groups by 24% (p < 0.05).

    CONCLUSION: Adding 4000 IU of vitamin D for patients with musculoskeletal pain may lead to a faster decline of consecutive VAS scores and to a decrease in the levels of inflammatory and pain-related cytokines.

    Be well!

    JP

  11. JP Says:

    Updated 09/23/15:

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9963240&fileId=S0007114515003372

    Br J Nutr. 2015 Sep 18:1-9.

    Vitamin D status is associated with cardiometabolic markers in 8-11-year-old children, independently of body fat and physical activity.

    Vitamin D status has been associated with cardiometabolic markers even in children, but the associations may be confounded by fat mass and physical activity behaviour. This study investigated associations between vitamin D status and cardiometabolic risk profile, as well as the impact of fat mass and physical activity in Danish 8-11-year-old children, using baseline data from 782 children participating in the Optimal well-being, development and health for Danish children through a healthy New Nordic Diet (OPUS) School Meal Study. We assessed vitamin D status as serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) and measured blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, homoeostasis model of assessment-insulin resistance, plasma lipids, inflammatory markers, anthropometry and fat mass by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and physical activity by 7 d accelerometry during August-November. Mean serum 25(OH)D was 60·8 (sd 18·7) nmol/l. Each 10 mmol/l 25(OH)D increase was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure (-0·3 mmHg, 95 % CI -0·6, -0·0) (P=0·02), total cholesterol (-0·07 mmol/l, 95 % CI -0·10, -0·05), LDL-cholesterol (-0·05 mmol/l, 95 % CI -0·08, -0·03), TAG (-0·02 mmol/l, 95 % CI -0·03, -0·01) (P≤0·001 for all lipids) and lower metabolic syndrome (MetS) score (P=0·01). Adjustment for fat mass index did not change the associations, but the association with blood pressure became borderline significant after adjustment for physical activity (P=0·06). In conclusion, vitamin D status was negatively associated with blood pressure, plasma lipids and a MetS score in Danish school children with low prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, and apart from blood pressure the associations were independent of body fat and physical activity. The potential underlying cause-effect relationship and possible long-term implications should be investigated in randomised controlled trials.

    Be well!

    JP

  12. JP Says:

    Updated 04/11/16:

    http://www.fasebj.org/content/30/1_Supplement/1156.1.abstract

    The FASEB Journal vol. 30 no. 1 Supplement 1156.1

    Effect of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Telomerase Activity in Hispanics with Type 2 Diabetes

    Significance: Low levels of telomerase activity create short telomeres, which in turn signal exit from the cell cycle, cell senescence and apoptosis. Low telomerase activity and short telomere length are linked to type 2 diabetes and mortality. Hispanics are shown to have shorter telomere lengths as compared to Whites. Hispanics are also at high risk for type 2 diabetes and vitamin D deficiency.

    Objective: This study investigated whether daily vitamin D3 supplementation at 4000 IU can increase telomerase activity over time in Hispanics with type 2 diabetes and hypovitaminosis D (25-hydroxy vitamin D < 30 ng/mL).

    Methods: Participants (n=34) were recruited from two clinics in Miami-Dade County, FL, US (Borinquen Health Care Center and Clinical Care Medical Center). Twenty milliliters of venous blood (at least 8 hours fasting) was collected from each participant by a certified phlebotomist using standard laboratory methods. Serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels were determined using a commercial ELISA kit from Immunodiagnostic Systems Limited (Scottsdale, AZ, USA). Telomerase activity was assayed by the TeloTAGGG Telomerase PCR ELISA kit (Roche Applied Science, Indianapolis, IN, USA). Final quantified telomerase activity levels were expressed as Relative Telomerase Activities (RTA). Participants were given 4000 IU/day of vitamin D3 supplementation for 6 months. All data analyses were conducted on an “intent to treat” basis. Statistical analysis included descriptive statistics and one-way repeated-measures ANOVA.

    Results: Mean levels for telomerase activity differed statistically significantly between time points (F(2,66) = 78.57), p < 0.001). Post hoc test using Bonferroni correction indicated that telomerase activity levels increased from baseline to 6 months (49.3 ± 6.8 vs. 63.1 ± 7.2 RTA, respectively) which was statistically significant (p < 0.001). However, baseline to 3 months telomerase activity levels (49.3 ± 6.8 vs. 45.9 ± 3.9 RTA, respectively) were not statistically significant (p = 0.068).

    Conclusion: Vitamin D3 supplementation at 4000 IU/day significantly increased telomerase activity in Hispanics with type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D3 supplementation may prevent/delay disease progression in type 2 diabetes through telomerase re-activation and maintenance of DNA. Larger randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these results in this and other racial/ethnic groups.

    Be well!

    JP

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