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Experts Advise Going Out in Midday Sun to Keep Up Vitamin D Levels

By: Mike Swain December 17, 2010–

 

Braving the midday sun is not such a crazy thing to do after all – in Britain.

In fact, it could be the best time to soak up the rays so that your body gets enough vitamin D for healthy bones.

Contrary to the cover-up message in Noel Coward’s famous song, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, experts reckon that some unprotected sun exposure around noon is vital to health.

Seven leading health groups and charities recommend up to 15 minutes of bare skin exposure three times a week in summer. And midday is best.

Before 10am and after 4pm the rays are too weak in the UK even in summer to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin.

But they stress that people should “never be red” at the end of the day as sunburn could lead to skin cancer. After 15 minutes it is time to go in, cover up or slap on sunscreen.

The guidance hopes to make it clear that “little and frequent” sun exposure is a good thing and that it is important to strike a balance between adequate vitamin D and avoiding skin cancer.

Professor Rona Mackie, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “Some of the messages about sunbathing have been a bit too negative. UK sunshine is not desperately strong.

“Exposing your face, arms and legs three times a week will do no harm.

“But your skin should not look as if it has been in the sun all day.”

And in the dark days of winter she advises keeping up vitamin D levels with “a holiday to the Canaries”.

Link: http://bit.ly/g8FfPx

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Weekend Sunshine Can Protect Against Skin Cancer

By Richard Gray–

 

Researchers studying how sun exposure affects the risk of developing melanomas discovered that those who spent between four to five hours in the sun each day over the weekend were less likely to develop tumours.

The findings appear to contradict the commonly-held belief that longer time spent in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer.

Instead, the study shows that while excessive exposure to the sun – and particularly sunburn – can lead to melanomas, regular doses of sun for up to five hours a day at weekends can be protective.

The study comes just days after Andy Flowers, the England Cricket team head coach, underwent surgery to remove a malignant melanoma below his right eye.

Professor Julia Newton Bishop, an epidemiologist who led the research at Leeds University, said it seems regular exposure helps the skin adapt and protect itself against the harmful affects of sunshine. Increased levels of vitamin D made in the skin while exposed to sunlight may also be protective.

Professor Newton Bishop said: “The relationship between the amount of sun we are exposed to and the risk of melanoma is complicated – we have known for a long time that melanomas are something to do with sun exposure and fair skin.

“Our paper suggests that moderate regular sun exposure may actually reduce the risk. We are talking about quite high levels of sun exposure for the protective effect with an average of four to five hours a day at weekends.

“It appears that in moderation, sun exposure can be protective, but it is when you have extreme sun exposure that it becomes a problem. So in the UK sunburn is a potent risk factor because we have a habit of not getting much sun at home and then suddenly exposing our skin when we go abroad.”

Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and around 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the disease each year. The incidence of the disease is rising faster than any other cancer in the UK and has quadrupled since then 1970s. Around 2,000 die each year in this country from skin cancer.

Public health experts blame the rise in skin cancer in the UK on growing use of sun beds and an increase in the number of holidays people take abroad.

Harmful ultraviolet light from the sun is thought to trigger skin cancer by causing damage to the DNA in the skin.

But the new study by Professor Newton Bishop and her colleagues, which is published in the European Journal of Cancer, suggests that regular sun exposure can help the body prevent this damage.

The researchers examined the sun exposure behaviour and skin type of 960 melanoma patients and 687 controls who had not been diagnosed with skin cancer.

After adjusting the results to account for deprivation, they found that participants with fair skin, freckles and blonde or red hair, were most at risk of developing melanomas as where those who had suffered severe sunburn.

But they also found that regular exposure to the sun at weekends of more than five hours had the most significant effect that protected the participants from developing melanoma.

Unfortunately for those with sensitive skin, this protective effect was not seen in people who had red hair and freckles, perhaps due to their tendency to burn far more quickly.

The researchers also measured levels of vitamin D in 1,167 of the participants, who were aged between 18 and 76 years old, and found that those who received regular doses of sun exposure at weekends also had raised levels of vitamin D.

Professor Newton Bishop said: “There is some evidence from other studies that suggests that vitamin D may help to reduce melanoma size and improve prognosis, but it could be that there is some adaptation going on in the skin which reduces the damage from ultraviolet light.

“Melanoma, in the UK, is a cancer of people who work inside who have short bursts of sunshine when they are on holiday. If they are working in offices all week, then when they go sunbathing on holiday, they don’t have the protection that might naturally develop.

“Regardless, people need to take steps to avoid getting sunburnt – particularly at this time of year when the days are shorter and there is much less sunshine around. People who go away for winter sun holidays are particularly at risk.”

Link: http://bit.ly/ecwgze

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Women Who Sunbathe Live Longer: Study

By: Peter Vinthagen Simpson December 2, 2010–

“Our studies show that women with active sunbathing habits live longer,” said chief physician Håkan Olsson at the division of oncology at Lund University, to the local Göteborgs-Posten (GP) daily.

Studies of the sun exposure habits of 40,000 women in southern Sweden have found that the health benefits of spending extended periods in the sun outweigh the negatives, such as the increased risk for skin cancer.

Olsson argued that he was not alone in claiming “that there can be other factors other than the sun which affect the risks for developing malignant melanomas”, and that exposure to the sun could help protect against a slew of other conditions.

Researchers claim that exposure to the sun is attributed to helping against blood clots, which are twice as common in the darker periods of the year than in the summer, the newspaper reported.

Furthermore the incidence of type 2 diabetes also shows seasonal variations, with the winter boom in cases attributed to a lack of vitamin D.

Skin cancer is however an increasing problem in Sweden, including the occurrence of dangerous malignant melanomas and the role of vitamin D is becoming an increasing popular cancer research area as scientific evidence mounts of its positive health benefits.

While doctors agree that avoiding sunburn and exercising caution in the sun is important, there is some dissent over blanket recommendations against solariums, protective clothing and comprehensive use of sunscreen, GP reported.

“We know that we are inside much more than before – this is certainly a factor to the declining levels of vitamin D,” Håkan Olsson told the newspaper.

Link: http://bit.ly/eZJQp9

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Sunlight Avoidance Leads to Rickets

The Front page of a British newspaper, The Telegraph, leads with this headline: Middle Class Children Suffering Rickets. It continues by saying that rickets is a 17th Century disease that is now caused by covering children in sunscreen and limiting time outside in the sunshine. Rickets is a horrible, crippling disease of children that causes malformation of bones and can totally ruin the child’s opportunity.

Dr. Nicholas Clarke, who is alarmed about the dramatic increase in the disease in just 24 months, states, “We are facing the daunting prospect of an area like Southampton, where it is high income, middle class and leafy in its surroundings, seeing increasing numbers of children with rickets, which would have been inconceivable only a year or so ago.” Every physician in the world knows that rickets is a vitamin D-deficiency disease caused by a lack of sunlight, which is the most natural source of vitamin D. The fear of developing melanoma has driven us to slather ourselves with sunscreens that block up to 99% of vitamin D production. It has also caused us to otherwise avoid the sun like the plague, which ironically, brings on a plague of rickets, other bone diseases, cancer and heart disease, as well as myriad other maladies I discuss in my book.

The advice by the Powers of Darkness to avoid sunlight is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the public, whether in England or America. We know from an impressive analysis by Dr. Robyn Lucas and colleagues that if those who would have us avoid the sunlight were totally successful, the outcome would be disastrous: for every case of death and disability prevented by sunlight avoidance, there would be 2,000 cases of death and disability (caused by bone diseases alone) due to sunlight avoidance! Of course, one of those diseases is rickets. Rickets, originally thought to be a disease of poor children who didn’t get enough sunlight due to working indoors, was thought to have been eradicated 80 years ago. It is now increasing rapidly. The blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who profit from frightening us out of the sunlight. Non-burning sunlight, when available, can easily prevent or reverse this disease, and vitamin D supplements or tanning lamps can help raise vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers and their offspring-to-be. It is time to return to the sunlight! Just be sure not to burn.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8128781/Middle-class-childr…
[2] Robyn M Lucas, Anthony J McMichael, Bruce K Armstrong and Wayne T Smith. Estimating the global disease burden due to ultraviolet radiation exposure. International Journal of Epidemiology ;37(3):667-8. – See more at: http://www.sunlightinstitute.org/sunlight-avoidance-leads-rickets#sthash.ZJpIhSF5.dpuf

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A Lack of Vitamin D and Sunlight leads to Weight Gain

By Lynn Lamb —

 

Vitamin D is known to play a major role in the health of humans. The many functions of vitamin D include its ability to control blood pressure, its role in calcium absorption and its involvement in the development of healthy bone and teeth. More recently, it has been suggested that Vitamin D is also necessary for maintaining a healthy weight.

Vitamin D Deficiencies Research suggests that inadequate levels of vitamin D not only causes many health related problems but is associated with weight gain. University of Michigan researchers found that children having deficiencies in vitamin D accumulated fat around the waist and gained weight more rapidly than children who were not vitamin D deficient. (1). This type of fat gain has been associated with greater risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

University of Southern California and McGill University Health Center researchers found that young women with a vitamin D insufficiency were significantly heavier and had an increased body mass than young women with normal vitamin D levels. The lack of vitamin D caused fat accumulation and increased risks of future chronic diseases (2).

Dr Helen Macdonald, of Aberdeen University’s department of medicine and therapeutics, suggests that obese people are just not getting enough sunlight and that the vitamin D they do have is going into fat stores and is not accessible (3).

Insufficient vitamin D in the blood interferes with the hormone leptin, which signals to the brain when the stomach is full (3).

Sources of Vitamin D The most common source of Vitamin D comes from ultraviolet sun rays. The ultraviolet rays are absorbed through the skin. The amount of Vitamin D produced in the body is determined by absorption levels.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest closest to the equator and at high elevations. Absorption of Vitamin D decreases the further from the equator you get. Individuals with darker skin absorb less Vitamin D than those with lighter skin; younger individuals absorb more Vitamin D than older individuals. Individuals that avoid sunlight by remaining inside or by staying covered up when outside will have limited Vitamin D absorption. Age, skin color, clothing, exposure time and where you live all determine the amount of Vitamin D your body will be able to produce.

Vitamin D can also be found in some foods. It occurs naturally in fatty fish, fish liver oil and egg yolks. Salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and tuna also contain Vitamin D. Milk and dairy products, orange juice, breakfast cereals, bread and soy products are often fortified with Vitamin D.

Vitamin D Requirements There has been controversy around the amount of Vitamin D required for healthy living. However, there is agreement that the tolerable upper level of intake is 2000 international units (IU) per day for anyone over one year (4). Health Canada suggests the adequate intake of Vitamin D for anyone under 50 years old is 200 IU, 400 IU for individuals from 51 to 70 years old and 600 IU for anyone over 70 years old (5).

Ensuring that you get the enough Vitamin D is an essential component for everyday health including maintaining a healthy weight. Enjoy the sun and make some Vitamin D today.

References 1. University of Michigan. “Low Blood Levels of Vitamin D Linked to Chubbier Kids, Faster Weight Gain.” ScienceDaily, 8 November 2010. Web. 8 November 2010. http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/11/101108161228.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29&utm_content=Google+International

2. McGill University Health Centre (2008, December 11). Lack Of Vitamin D Causes Weight Gain And Stunts Growth In Girls. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081210122238.htm

3. Current TV: Exposure to sunlight may be key to weight loss. http://current.com/news/89103283_exposure-to-sunlight-may-be-key-to-weig…

4.Health Canada. Vitamin D Recommendation and Review Status. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php

Link: http://bit.ly/a0fmYv

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Brain Health from the Sun

By Joan Sumpio, RND–
Many experts are still in denial that a big number of Asians are suffering from, if not at risk of having, Vitamin D deficiency. Experts who say that it is next to impossible for Asians to have vitamin D deficiency do not have a clear picture of the way of life of Asians.

Individuals who live in a tropical country would actually often shelter themselves from the sun’s rays to keep their skin from getting darker. This practice alone already puts most Asian populations at risk of having inadequate vitamin D.

To the working Asian population, longer office hours keep them from being exposed to the sun’s rays for a reasonable time. Many would say that they leave for work before the sun rises and go home when the sun has set – another reason why many people miss the sun’s health benefits. Although it is true that many foods are now fortified with vitamin D, we cannot guarantee that this is enough. Note that a lot of foods have been fortified with vitamin A, Iron and Iodine, and yet, its deficiency is still a big public health problem.

Vitamin D is well known to be a very important bone nutrient. Its primary function is to maintain blood levels of calcium and phosphorus concentrations at a range that will support body processes, neuromuscular functions and bone building/strengthening activities. Aside from these important functions, vitamin D also acts like a hormone that stimulates maturation of cells including those of the immune system.

Vitamin D is also beneficial to our brain functions. In one study, participants with vitamin D deficiency were found to have higher risk of substantial cognitive decline by 60 percent compared to those with sufficient vitamin D levels. As we age, our cognitive performance naturally declines. With vitamin D deficiency, this decline is accelerated.

If you do not experience this accelerated decline in cognitive function, you should have regular exposure to sunlight for at least 15 minutes in day.

On days when you are most sheltered from sunlight, make sure you incorporate vitamin D food sources into your meal plans. Foods like salmon, sardines, and those fortified with vitamin D (milk, cheese/cheese spreads, breakfast cereals, pasta and margarine)are sources of vitamin D.

Presently, our recommended daily intake for vitamin D is 5ug for the general population. For those aged 50 – 64 years old there is higher recommended intake of 10ug and for those above 65 years old, a daily intake of 15 ug is recommended. Prolonged exposure under the sun does not pose any risk because the body can regulate the production of vitamin D3 from the sun; it is our exogenous intake of vitamin D that we have to watch out for as chronic excessive intake can lead to bone resorption.

Link: http://bit.ly/d0qxvH

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Keeping Health in the Dark

By: Joanne Hunt–

If you needed another reason to moan about the Irish weather – US vitamin D specialist Dr Michael Holick is the man to talk to.

The professor of Medicine at Boston University Medical Center and author of The Vitamin D Solution believes Ireland’s lack of sunshine, needed to stimulate the production of vitamin D in the body, is making us all less healthy.

Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, it not only helps us absorb up to twice as much calcium from our food for good bone health, but Holick says it can also play a role in everything from labour pains to multiple sclerosis.

The modern lifestyles “of avoiding the sun, putting on sun screen and working indoors” is thwarting Mother Nature, something that’s further exacerbated by Ireland’s northerly latitude, says Holick.

“You get no Vitamin D in Ireland from November through March,” he says. “The sun is coming in at an angle at that time of year and the vitamin D producing rays are being absorbed by the ozone layer.”

Our summers aren’t much good either, according to Holick, particularly if we’re being sun smart. “If you go out in the early morning and late afternoon as you’ve been taught, you get no vitamin D in summer either because the sun is coming in just like winter sunlight.”

So how does he explain sunburn at these off-peak times? “UVA radiation makes no vitamin D, but it can still cause redness to the skin – it’s not UVA rays you’re after, it’s UVB and it mainly comes in from 10am to 3pm.”

Before sun-worshippers take Dr Holick’s words as carte blanche to hit the garage roof with some reflective foil and a slick of baby oil, he urges caution.

“Get out for five or 10 minutes, protect your face because it’s the most sun damaged – but exposing your arms or legs a couple of times a week won’t cause any problems and will definitely improve your vitamin D status.”

So what can the sunshine vitamin do for us? “We’ve shown that pregnant women who are vitamin D deficient in their first trimester have a higher risk of vaginal infection and of pre-eclampsia,” he says.

“We did a study of 400 women to see if vitamin D levels had an effect on the numbers requiring C-section – we found a 400 per cent reduced risk of a C-section if they simply were vitamin D sufficient at the time they gave birth.”

Holick says a deficiency of the vitamin in utero and in the first year of life brings a higher risk of eczema and wheezing disorders and also impairs growth.

He says “there’s no food that naturally contains vitamin D other than oily fish. It’s mainly in foods especially fortified with vitamin D, like milk.”

For pregnant women, he advises pre-natal vitamins containing vitamin D and two glasses of D-fortified milk a day.

There are also benefits for teens, he says. “There’s data in the US that teenagers who are D deficient have over twice the risk of having high blood pressure and four times the risk of having type 2 diabetes.”

Holick claims vitamin D can also have a powerful effect on multiple sclerosis (MS) and again draws a parallel between our geographic location and the disease.

“We know that if you live north of Atlanta Georgia, so basically all of northern Europe, for the first 10 years of your life, you have a 100 per cent increased risk of getting MS for the rest of your life,” he says.

Holick agrees that he gets a certain amount of criticism from skin cancer lobbyists for his pro-sun advice.

“I do get criticism, but I can tell you that 40 per cent of Australians are vitamin D deficient – it turns out the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap!’ campaign has caused a major epidemic in vitamin D deficiency.

“Even the Australian Cancer Council and the Australian Dermatology Association have now recommended some sensible sun exposure.”

This wonder vitamin might just be good for government coffers too, according to Holick. He believes that Ireland’s annual healthcare budget could be decreased by up to 25 per cent if we all had higher levels of vitamin D.

Let’s hope for a fine summer then.

Link: http://bit.ly/eO1Ofo

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Sunlight, Vitamin D and Brain Disorders. If You Want to Stay Smart, get some Sunlight!

A recent study on the relationship between cognitive impairment (thinking disorders) and vitamin D levels came to some very interesting conclusions. Dr. David Llewellyn, the lead researcher, stated the following: “Compared with those patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D, those participants who were very vitamin D deficient had a 6-fold higher risk for cognitive impairment, with a doubling of risk still for those who were considered deficient (>25 to <50)”[1]” Dr. Llewellyn also stated that “low levels of vitamin D are just genuinely bad for the brain.”

Vitamin D research continues to amaze. The evidence mounts that vitamin D deficiency has a profound negative influence on the function of the brain. Previously, I wrote of the compelling evidence that autism is a vitamin D deficiency disease and also presented research indicative of a role of vitamin D in reducing depression, elevating mood and increasing happiness. I also came across a small study of 17 psychiatric patients. Of these patients, two were borderline deficient and 15 were deficient. Seven had such low levels that blood tests could not produce an accurate reading. Encouragingly, the researchers recommended that mental-health inpatients receive adequate exposure to sunlight.[2] In my book, I documented the critical importance of sunlight/vitamin D to the development and health of the brain:

1. Prenatal vitamin D deficiency in animals profoundly alters brain development.[3] [4]] Dr. Darryl Eyles and his colleagues state, “rats born to vitamin D-deficient mothers had profound alterations in the brain at birth.” The cortex was longer but not wider, the lateral ventricles were enlarged, the cortex was proportionally thinner and there was more cell proliferation throughout the brain… Our findings would suggest that low maternal vitamin D(3) has important ramifications for the developing brain.”

2. Rats born to vitamin D-deficient mothers also have permanently damaged brains into adulthood[5] and exhibit hyperlocomotion (excessive movement from place to place) at the age of ten weeks.[6] Could this relate to hyperactivity in our children? Such rats also show impairment in learning and memory skills.

3. People hospitalized for bipolar disorder, and who are exposed to sunlight daily, are able to leave the hospital almost four days earlier than those who are not exposed,[7] and people hospitalized for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also have shorter stays when they are placed in rooms on the sunny side of the hospital.[8]

4. Two studies of mice with abnormal vitamin D receptors (VDR) in the brain found an increase in anxiety, aggression, poor grooming, maternal pup neglect and cannibalism.[9] [10] Abnormal VDR cause a situation similar to vitamin D deficiency; the vitamin D that is available cannot properly stimulate the genes that prevent the anxiety, cannibalism, etc.

5. Another vital function of vitamin D is in inducing the production of nerve-growth factor (NGF), a protein that is essential for proper development of nerve cells in the brain and elsewhere.[11] [12] It is obvious that if vitamin D is not present, nerve cells will simply not develop as they should in the central nervous system and brain, leading to the mental disorders we discuss here.

Can it be that the Powers of Darkness (the “sunscare” promoters) are partially responsible for the widespread depression, negativism, anxiety and psychological disorder that plague our society to a greater extent each year? Their efforts, coupled with modern indoor lifestyles, are leading to increases in a plethora of diseases, some of which are disorders of the brain. I believe it will be only a matter of time until vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women will be correlated to abnormally low IQ in the children they bear. In another blog, I have already discussed autism as a vitamin D deficiency disease, and there is an indication that women who conceive in the fall and winter tend to bear more dyslexic children,[13] as well as children with other learning and reading disabilities.[14] [15] [14] The nervous system’s critical time to develop neural connections is in the first months after conception. If the pregnant woman is low in vitamin D during that time, it could affect the development of the fetal brain.Activated vitamin D is a potent hormone that is essential for proper brain development.

As a society and as parents, we cannot wait for more research before acting on the crying need for optimal vitamin D levels. Our mental and physical health, as well as that of our children, depends on regular, non-burning exposure sunlight, or other sources of vitamin D.

 

[1] Susan Jeffery, Low Vitamin D Levels Associated With Increased Risk for Cognitive Impairment Medscape Today, July 13,2010. [2] Tiangga, E. et al. Psychiatric Bulletin 2008;32:390-93 [3] Eyles, D. et al. Vitamin D3 and brain development. Neuroscience 2003;118:641-53. [4] McGrath, J. et al. Vitamin D3-implications for brain development. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2004;89-90:557-60. [5] Feron, F. et al. Developmental vitamin D3 deficiency alters the adult rat brain. Brain Res Bull. 2005 Mar 15;65(2):141-8. [6] Burne, T. et al. Transient prenatal Vitamin D deficiency is associated with hyperlocomotion in adult rats. Behav Brain Res 2004;154:549-55. [7] Benedetti, F. et al. Morning sunlight reduces length of hospitalization in bipolar depression. J Affect Disord 2001;62:221-23. [8] Beauchemin, K. et al. sunny hospital rooms expedite recovery from severe and refractory depressions. J Affect Disord 1996;40:49-51. [9] Kalueff, A. et al. Increased anxiety in mice lacking vitamin D receptor gene. Neuroreport 2004;15:1271-74. [10] Kalueff, A. et al. Behavioral anomalies in mice evoked by Tokyo disruption of the vitamin D receptor gene. Neurosci Res 2006;54:254-60. [11] Kiraly,S et al. Vitamin D as a neuroactive substance: review. Scientific World Journal 2006;6:125-139. [12] Carlson, A. et al. Is vitamin D deficiency associated with peripheral neuropathy? The Endocrinologist 2007;17:319-25. [13] Livingston, R. et al. Season of birth and neurodevelopmental disorders: summer birth is associated with dyslexia. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1993;32:612-6. [14] Badian, N. Reading Disability in an Epidemiological Context: Incidence and Environmental Correlates. J Learn Disabil. 1984;17:129-36. [15] Martin, R. Season of birth is related to child retention rates, achievement, and rate of diagnosis of specific LD. J Learn Disabil 2004;37:307-17 – See more at: http://www.sunlightinstitute.org/sunlight-vitamin-d-and-brain-disorders-if-you-want-stay-smart-get-some-sunlight#sthash.JzZjCaNl.dpuf

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Insufficient Vitamin D Levels in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Patients Linked to Cancer Progression

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found a significant difference in cancer progression and death in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients who had sufficient vitamin D levels in their blood compared to those who didn’t.

In the Mayo Clinic study, published online in the journal Blood, the researchers found that patients with insufficient levels of vitamin D when their leukemia was diagnosed progressed much faster and were about twice as likely to die as were patients with adequate levels of vitamin D.

They also found solid trends: increasing vitamin D levels across patients matched longer survival times and decreasing levels matched shortening intervals between diagnosis and cancer progression. The association also remained after controlling for other prognostic factors associated with leukemia progression.

The finding is significant in a number of ways. For the first time, it potentially offers patients with this typically slower growing form of leukemia a way to slow progression, says the study’s lead author, Tait Shanafelt, M.D., a hematologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “This finding may be particularly relevant for this kind of leukemia because although we often identify it at an early stage, the standard approach is to wait until symptoms develop before treating patients with chemotherapy,” Dr. Shanafelt says. “This watch and wait approach is difficult for patients because they feel there is nothing they can do to help themselves.” “It appears vitamin D levels may be a modifiable risk factor for leukemia progression. It is simple for patients to have their vitamin D levels checked by their physicians with a blood test,” he says. “And if they are deficient, vitamin D supplements are widely available and have minimal side effects.”

This research adds to the growing body of evidence that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for development and/or progression of a number of cancers, the researchers say. Studies have suggested that low blood vitamin D levels may be associated with increased incidence of colorectal, breast and other solid cancers. Other studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels at diagnosis may be associated with poorer outcomes in colorectal, breast, melanoma and lung cancers, as well as lymphoma.

Replacing vitamin D in some patients has proven to be beneficial, the researchers say. For example, they cite a placebo-controlled clinical trial that found women who increased their vitamin D intake reduced their risk of cancer development.

In this study, the research team enrolled 390 CLL patients into a prospective, observational study. They tested the blood of these newly diagnosed patients for plasma concentration of 25-hydroxyl-vitamin D and found that 30 percent of these CLL patients were considered to have insufficient vitamin D levels, which is classified as a level less than 25 nanograms per milliliter. After a median follow-up of three years, CLL patients deficient in vitamin D were 66 percent more likely to progress and require chemotherapy; deficient patients also had a two-fold increased risk of death.

To confirm these findings, they then studied a different group of 153 untreated CLL patients who had been followed for an average of 10 years. The researchers found that about 40 percent of these 153 CLL patients were vitamin D deficient at the time of their diagnosis. Patients with vitamin D deficiency were again significantly more likely to have had their leukemia progress and to have died, Dr. Shanafelt says.

“This tells us that vitamin D insufficiency may be the first potentially modifiable risk factor associated with prognosis in newly diagnosed CLL,” he says.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, the Henry J. Predolin Foundation, Vysis, Inc., and the Mayo Hematologic Malignancies Fund. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Link: http://bit.ly/aUawWP

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Vitamin D Health Warning for the Children who Shun the Sun

By: Richard Alleyne —

 

Casualty departments are dealing with dozens of emergency cases where infants are having seizures as a direct result of not getting enough vitamin D, which is essential for healthy teeth and bones.

In one case, a baby suffered brain damage after a fit.

The study said the extreme cases are part of an escalating problem of a deficiency of the vitamin, which the body makes when exposed to sunlight.

The report in the London Journal of Primary Care blames indoor lifestyles and the use of high sun protection factor creams for a health issue unheard of a decade ago.

The findings have prompted experts to call for vitamin D pills to be made more widely available on the NHS, especially for pregnant women.

The study reveals the introduction of schemes offering mothers supplements has been slow. Some areas of London have no vitamin packs available and people are ignorant about the benefits of vitamin D, which is also found in oily fish, liver and eggs.

Colin Michie, a co-author of the study, said vitamin D deficiency was no longer a “poor” problem and the middle classes are just as vulnerable.

The consultant paediatrician, who works at Ealing Hospital and BMI Clementine Churchill, said GPs should be more alert to symptoms such as muscle aches and pains.

He told the Evening Standard: “This is a totally avoidable condition which is now a public health issue. It’s affecting middle-class children because they’re overprotecting with sunscreen and not going out as much.

SPF is also increasingly in cosmetics used by young women.

“The more dramatic cases tend to be in people who wear traditional clothing and so are covered up.” However, he added, GPs also see a growing number of low-level cases in other groups.

Warnings over the links between sunburn and skin cancer have prompted some people to shun the sun. The actress Gwyneth Paltrow has revealed recently that she was diagnosed with very poor vitamin D levels after years of keeping her skin covered.

A special investigation is being launched into the extent of emergency admissions for patients with vitamin D deficiency.The British Paediatric Surveillance Unit will gather data from hospitals from next year.

Mr Michie analysed the cases of 17 babies and infants treated at Ealing Hospital for a severe lack of vitamin D between 2006 and 2008. He found many experienced a delay in walking, a problem last common in Victorian times.

Cancer Research UK is considering changing it guidelines concerning sun exposure because of the problem.

Instead of advising people to stay out the midday sun completely, it may suggest that a few minutes exposure could be healthy.

Link: http://bit.ly/bwpLQL

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