By Graham Pembrey
Summer is on the horizon and it is only natural that many of us will be reaching for the sun cream, in an attempt to keep our pale British skin from burning in the heat. One thing that many of us will not realise as we do so, however, is that while sun lotion blocks out harmful rays from the sun, it also prevents our bodies from absorbing an important vitamin that helps us to fight off obesity.
You see, while excessive sunshine might burn us, sunshine is also an important source of what is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – vitamin D. Vitamin D has many benefits. It helps bone growth, prevents depression, and aids weight loss. When we lack in this vitamin, our bodies can suffer. As can our emotions – which is one of the major reasons why seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, affects many people in the cold season, giving them the ‘winter blues’.
There is some good news for people who want to tan without burning, but also want to avoid obesity; vitamin D can be found in certain foods including oily fish, eggs and dairy products. The vitamin can also be found in margarines, and in cod and liver oil. By eating plenty of these foods, it may be possible to make up for some lack of exposure to sunlight. Still, you should try to get at least 10 to 20 minutes of sunlight most days.
By Better Health Research News Desk
Exposure of ultraviolet A light early in life is an unlikely cause of developing melanoma, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A team of researchers used two types of fish, which are prone to developing melanoma, and exposed the groups to either ultraviolet A or B lights everyday during the fifth and 10th day of life. After 14 months of exposure, the scientists then tested the fish for the disease.
The results showed that 43 percent of the194 fish exposed to UVB lighting had melanoma, while only about 13 percent of the 282 fish exposed to UVA had developed the disease.
“We found that UVB exposure induced melanoma in 43 percent of the 194 treated fish, a much higher rate than the 18.5 percent incidence in the control group that received no UV exposure,” said David Mitchell, lead author and professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Carcinogenesis. He added that “UVA is just not as dangerous as we thought because it doesn’t cause melanoma.”
While melanoma only accounts for less than 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, it has still been proven to cause the most skin cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
By Rod Chaytor
Helen’s shock at diagnosis
A health conscious nurse has been diagnosed with rickets after covering herself for years with factor 50 sun block.
Helen Smith, 38, suffered excruciating joint pain and extreme tiredness for almost a decade before doctors realised what was wrong with her.
The mum-of-two had been blocking out the sun’s rays – and with it the crucial vitamin D they deliver to maintain healthy bones.
This led to an adult form of rickets – a condition causing bones to become soft and weak normally linked to the child victims of famine.
Fair-skinned Helen said: “I was absolutely staggered when I found the cause of all this had been because I was being too responsible in the sun.”
She started to feel ill about 10 years ago, around the time she began applying the sun cream.
Helen added: “I’d get really bad lower back pain which spread to my hips and shoulders. I’d be in terrible pain and unbelievably tired. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed.
“If I did make it to my job as a practice nurse I wanted to fall asleep as soon as I got home. My GP referred me to a physiotherapist, thinking I had some muscular problem. But it didn’t help.
“I also saw a gastroenterologist and rheumatologist, but all to no avail. And even though I’m a nurse myself I just didn’t know what it could be.”
Helen, who is married to 40-year-old handyman Dean, was finally sent for blood tests last year after a new doctor at her practice suspected she may be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
She said: “She asked me about my sunbathing habits and when I explained that I was always extremely careful and would put factor 50 on my face or exposed skin at the first sign of sunshine, she felt certain this was behind my problem.”
Helen, from Birmingham, was found to have dangerously low levels of vitamin D and diagnosed with a form of rickets known as osteomalacia. She was put on a high dose of vitamin D tablets and says that, almost a year later, she is starting to feel better.
Helen added: “I thought I was being responsible by putting on sunscreen. I’d never even heard of vitamin deficiency and couldn’t believe I’d done this to myself.
“Now I try and get my 30 minutes of sunlight as soon as the sun comes out, after which I put on factor 15 sunscreen. I don’t want to be that ill again.”
RAYS ARE CRUCIAL
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for healthy bones and is almost wholly provided through the chemical reaction which occurs when ultraviolet rays from the sun directly hit the skin.
Professor John Monson, of the Endocrinology Centre at the London Clinic, said: “Understandably people are concerned about having too much sun because of the dangers of skin cancer.
“But there is a lot of surface area on the face and forearms and that is all the exposure you need for the body to make vitamin D.”
He added: “Unfortunately we are seeing more instances of insufficiency of vitamin D because people are not spending enough time outdoors.”
By Bill Hendrick, WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
Low vitamin D levels are commonly observed in children in northern states, often due to insufficient sunlight and dietary intake.
But emerging research indicates that young people who live in the South, where sunlight is ample, also have low vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D promotes bone growth and other important body functions. The body uses sunshine to make vitamin D, and it is also found in some foods. Vitamin D and Teens
Researchers measured vitamin D levels in 559 African-American and white adolescents between 14 and 18 in Augusta, Ga., which gets plenty of sunlight year-round. Vitamin D levels were tested in all four seasons of the year.
Kids were excluded if they were taking medications or had chronic medical conditions that might affect growth and development or affect study results.
Of the 559 participants, 49% were female, 51% male, 45% African-American, and 55% white.
Researchers say participants were in various stages of maturation and that 268 of the 274 girls had started menstruation.
About half (56.4 %) of the youths tested had vitamin D insufficiency, meaning the level was low but not affecting health. But 28.8% had vitamin D deficiency — a level low enough to cause health problems.
The vitamin D levels were lowest in winter. But African-American teenagers had significantly lower vitamin D levels in every season of the year, compared to white teens.
Also, adolescents with a higher body mass index had lower vitamin D levels. Vitamin D Deficiency Higher in African-Americans
Overall, the researchers write, vitamin D levels were higher in white children than in African-American teens, and higher in boys than girls.
Researchers report that: * Vitamin D insufficiency rates were 94.3% in African-American girls and 83.1% in African-American boys, compared with 29.6% in white girls and 30.3% in white boys. * Vitamin D deficiency rates were 73.8% in African-American girls and 46.9% in African-American boys, compared with only 2.6% in white girls and 3.9% in white boys. * Severe vitamin D deficiency was found only in African-American adolescents, or 5.2%. * In summer, no white kids had vitamin D deficiency, but 55% of African-American youths did.
Adults Need Vitamin D, Too
Vitamin D deficiency can result in thin, brittle, or misshapen bones; having enough Vitamin D can prevent rickets in kids. It also helps to protect older adults from osteoporosis.
Researchers say their study is one of the first to investigate vitamin D status in children in the southern part of the U.S. in African-Americans as well as whites.
They also say that low levels of vitamin D is a growing national problem for young people in the U.S. regardless of where they live.
“One of the key findings in our study is that a substantial proportion of black adolescents may be at risk for low vitamin D status not only in winter but throughout the year,” the researchers write.
Researchers say more work is needed to investigate the implications for low vitamin D status and how to improve the situation.
By Meredith May, Chronicle Staff Writer
One April day after weeks of rain, Daniel Jiminez took a detour on his way to class: Dolores Park in San Francisco.
He needed the sun.
“I know what they say about skin cancer, but I just feel better when I’m warm and tan,” said Jiminez, 24. “I’m sorry, but I’d rather be happy.”
Turns out doctors are coming around to his point of view. After decades of slathering on SPF protection, more people are discovering through routine medical screens that they have deficiencies in vitamin D – a hormone produced in the body by sun exposure.
As a result, doctors are seeing a resurgence of rickets and are concerned with osteoporosis in adults over 50. But for most people with low vitamin D levels, symptoms are hard to pinpoint: feeling tired, sluggish or a general malaise.
Known for causing bowed legs and fractured bones primarily in children, rickets all but disappeared in the United States in the 1930s as diets improved and vitamin D was added to certain dairy products.
But in the ensuing decades, as people turned to increasingly stronger sunscreen to ward off melanomas, and work shifted from predominantly outdoor activity to office work, vitamin D has been slowly slipping out of our systems, according to Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University Medical Center, who writes in his new book “The Vitamin D Solution” that lack of vitamin D can lead to heart disease, cancer, depression, insomnia, diabetes, chronic pain and perhaps autism.
“We’ve done studies that show that people living at higher latitudes with less sun are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency,” Holick said.
Levels in breast milk
Another study of lactating women in South Carolina showed negligible levels of vitamin D in their breast milk. “Evolutionarily, that makes no sense when our forefathers made thousands of units of it a day,” Holick said.
National guidelines have not kept up with the dipping D levels, he said.
Federal health experts currently recommend between 200 and 600 international units of vitamin D a day. But those benchmarks are due to change this summer, as the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board responds to the new research about vitamin D.
“It should be 10 times that,” Holick said.
While vitamin D is found in some foods, such as wild caught salmon, fortified milk and mushrooms, it’s not enough to replenish what’s missing. Receiving serious attention
Holick has caught some flack from dermatologists for suggesting that 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure on the legs and arms per day, a few days a week, can restore vitamin D levels. Vitamin D created via sun exposure versus supplements lasts twice as long in the body.
Despite being fired from Boston University’s department of dermatology in 2004, Holick is now getting more serious attention because of his stance. He’s Boston University’s lead vitamin D researcher, studying the vitamin’s effect on genes.
“Just a light pink color, before burning, then put on the sunscreen, will do it,” he said, adding that the face should always be protected.
Holick keeps his own vitamin D levels up with three glasses of milk, a multivitamin and a 2,000-unit vitamin D capsule each day. He plays tennis, gardens and cycles each week for brief periods with sunscreen only on his face.
But pills can also do the trick, and that’s what more doctors are suggesting.
Patients can ask doctors to do a special screen for vitamin D (the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test) that costs about $200 and may or may not be covered by insurance. The magic number doctors are looking for is at least 30, which stands for nanograms per milliliter. Prescribing further units
If levels are too low, doctors typically prescribe 50,000 units once a week for eight weeks to fill up the tank, then every two weeks thereafter. The next two months, patients take anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 units until a healthy vitamin D level is reached. Maintenance is considered anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 units a day.
“It’s kind of a mixed message: Do you want cancer or do you want brittle bones?” said Wren Wolf, 21, a friend who joined Jiminez on his impromptu Dolores Park picnic.
“I think it all boils down to everything in moderation.”
E-mail Meredith May at email@example.com.
By: Jeffrey Wolf
DENVER – When we think of vitamin D, we often think of the sun, and maybe trying to spend more time outdoors. But a new study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says seven out of 10 pregnant women in the U.S. are not getting enough of this crucial vitamin.
Prenatal vitamins do raise vitamin D levels during pregnancy but this study shows that higher doses may be needed. That is because vitamin D has reemerged as an important nutritional factor in maternal and infant health.
If the mother has low levels of vitamin D during the pregnancy, it can have an affect on her child in its early life. The condition has been linked to increased risk of childhood wheezing and respiratory infections. Low levels in adults have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The lead author of the study, Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, is from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.
“We already know that vitamin D is important for bone health of the mother and infant, but we are just starting to scratch the surface about the many potential health benefits of vitamin D during pregnancy,” he said.
Those with darker skin or who cover their skin during the day, as well as women living in northern parts of the country are at a particularly risk for lower vitamin D levels.
However, not all women have this problem and an excess of vitamin D can be risky as well.
“We need more data from clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women. If the ongoing trials continue to show benefit, the best strategy will likely be measuring vitamin D levels through a simple blood test and choosing supplementation doses according to those levels. This tailored approach is common in preventive care for people with high cholesterol, and safer and more effective than a one-size-fits-all solution,” Ginde said.
His best advice, and that of other experts, is to treat vitamin D like other medications. People should have levels checked initially to see how much extra is needed. Then recheck once on supplementation to ensure levels are where they are supposed to be.
On top of taking a supplement, you can also get vitamin D from many other sources. Fortified foods like milk, cereal and yogurt, as well as other foods like eggs, have higher levels of vitamin D.
The major source for us is still sunlight, but you have to weigh getting enough vitamin D from the sun against your risk of skin cancer from sun exposure. The bottom line is that it is important to make sure your levels of vitamin D are adequate, but not too high. This is especially true if you’re pregnant.
Much like folate, another essential vitamin for a baby’s development, mothers want levels of vitamin D to be high enough before becoming pregnant.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)
By Anne Harding
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women’s dietary intake of vitamin D and calcium doesn’t seem to influence their risk of breast cancer, before or after menopause, new research from Canada shows. But the findings do suggest that taking vitamin D in supplement form may be protective against the disease. Health
Given these new findings on vitamin D supplements, “it looks promising for vitamin D,” Laura N. Anderson, one of the study’s authors and a doctoral student at Cancer Care Ontario in Toronto, told Reuters Health. “We certainly need more research done in this area,” she said.
Some prior studies have suggested that vitamin D may reduce breast cancer risk. Breast cells have receptors for vitamin D, Anderson noted, raising the possibility that the nutrient could help regulate the division and proliferation of these cells; there’s also growing evidence that vitamin D could help protect against other types of cancer.
When it comes to diet and supplements, vitamin D and calcium often go hand in hand, she added. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, so women who want to keep their bones strong as they age are advised to take both; also, many calcium-rich foods, like milk, are enriched with vitamin D.
Anderson and her team sought to separate out the effects of vitamin D and calcium on breast cancer risk by surveying 3,101 breast cancer patients and 3,471 healthy controls about their intake of food and supplements.
The researchers found no relationship between overall vitamin D intake and breast cancer risk; nor was there any association between overall calcium intake and risk of the disease.
However, women who reported taking at least 400 international units of vitamin D every day were at 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer.
The findings are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Right now, Anderson noted, health authorities in Canada, the US and other countries are looking at revising the current recommendations on vitamin D intake upward, given that it looks like higher intakes of the vitamin D may be more beneficial.
Further research is needed, she and her colleagues conclude, to investigate the relationship between bigger doses of vitamin D and calcium and breast cancer risk.
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online April 14, 2010.
By AccuWeather.com’s Victoria Atkinson
Vitamin D is now a hot topic, and not just because it as known as the sunshine vitamin.
According to James E. Dowd, MD, author of “The Vitamin D Cure,” the majority of Americans are Vitamin D deficient.
Low levels of this vitamin have correlated with an increase in cancer, diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity and autoimmune diseases.
More than 90 percent of our total supply comes from the ultraviolet light of the sun.
The dilemma is that some people are exposed to too many harmful rays, whether natural or artificial.
Others are not getting enough sun either because they lather up in SPF or they are not outside enough.
Dowd’s book suggests spending time outside getting natural sunlight to achieve ample Vitamin D levels.
“Physicians should check Vitamin D levels as routinely as they check cholesterol and blood pressure,” said Dowd.
Linda Margusity was diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency and was recommended to begin a vitamin regimen.
“I believe it is easier to get Vitamin D through a supplement because you need direct rays to get it through the sun,” said Margusity.
The rays we need only hit at certain times of the year and in certain parts of the world.
“I am not going to stand outside in the winter every day for 10 minutes,” said Margusity. “If our plants don’t grow because there isn’t enough direct sunlight, how are we going to get enough Vitamin D?”
When outside in the sun, some are covering up their skin with sunscreen or makeup with high levels of SPF. After all of the years being told to lather up with sunblock, is it wiser to go without?
The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) does not recommend being in ultraviolet light without any sun protection.
“Our knowledge of the dangers associated with UVA rays has grown significantly over the last few decades,” said Perry Robins, MD, President, SCF. “We now know that UVA plays a direct role in skin cancer comparable to that of UVB.”
The SCF urges people to use a complete program of sun protection. Seeking shade, using protective clothing and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen are all important.
Obtaining Vitamin D from fortified juices or milk, fatty fish, or taking a vitamin supplement is smartest, according to the SCF.
“I would much rather take a supplement than get skin cancer,” Margusity said.
Link: http://bit.ly/bDCVue –
By Nathan Seppa April 24th, 2010; Vol.177 #9 (p. 9)
Ultraviolet radiation from sunshine seems to thwart multiple sclerosis, but perhaps not the way most researchers had assumed, a new study in mice suggests.
If validated in further research, the finding could add a twist to a hypothesis that has gained credence in recent decades. The report appears online March 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists have hypothesized that MS is rare in the tropics because people synthesize ample vitamin D from exposure to the UV radiation in equatorial sunlight. What’s more, MS is more common in the high latitudes of northern parts of Europe and North America than in regions farther south. That pattern has led to the assumption that higher levels of vitamin D might prevent people from developing MS, what became known as the latitude hypothesis.
But a direct cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin D deficiency and MS has never been established. In past experiments, giving vitamin D supplements to mice with an MS-like disease required giving the animals harmful amounts of the nutrient, notes Hector DeLuca, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
“It just didn’t add up,” he says. “We decided to go back and see if maybe UV light by itself was doing something.”
In MS, the fatty myelin sheaths that insulate nerves in the central nervous system are damaged by attacks by the immune system. In a series of experiments in mice, DeLuca and his team induced a condition comparable to human MS by injecting the animals with proteins that instigate similar myelin damage.
The researchers exposed some mice to UV radiation before and after giving the animals the damaging injection. Another group of mice got the injection but not the UV exposure.
The mice exposed to UV rays suppressed the effects of MS-like disease better than the control mice, the researchers found, even though the amount of radiation wasn’t enough to greatly increase the animals’ blood concentrations of vitamin D.
In another test, the researchers gave injected mice varying doses of vitamin D supplements, but no UV radiation. The supplements failed to control the disease onset, severity or progression.
“We concluded that UV light is doing something beyond [making] vitamin D,” DeLuca says.
There’s no question that the latitude hypothesis has merit, says George Ebers, a neurologist at the University of Oxford in England. “MS risk is geographically related.” But that risk is more complicated than exposure to UV radiation during an MS attack, as this mouse model used. For example, previous research has shown that children in northern latitudes who are born in May, after their mothers had spent a winter with little sunshine, are more likely to develop MS than are kids born in November, he says.
Ebers notes that mice in this study were exposed or not exposed to UV over a matter of weeks and were in the throes of an MS-like disease during the study. “That’s completely separate … from the question of whether your risk is boosted or diminished by where your mother lived,” he says.
Apart from the timing issue, MS risk might well be influenced by a biological mechanism apart from vitamin D blood levels, but many questions remain, Ebers says. Those include how UV radiation might inhibit MS and, more specifically, what is the effect of UV rays in suppressing the immune system. “It’s quite possible that UV exposure will have a number of other mechanisms and be involved in hormonal circuits,” he says.
DeLuca and his colleagues speculate that UV radiation is playing a mysterious role in MS that is independent of vitamin D production. “We’re doing experiments trying to find out what it is,” he says.
Fighting high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency could be as simple as a glass of milk and a healthy dose of sunshine.
By Gloria Dawson April 8, 2010
Two new studies demonstrate some age-old advice: A glass of milk and a healthy dose of sunshine could be the best defense for your kids against high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency. One study put out by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics found that seven in 10 kids have low levels of vitamin D. Another study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine sees a correlation in the amount of time children spend watching TV and how high their blood pressure is.
In the study focusing on vitamin D deficiency, researches analyzed data on more than 6,000 children, ages one to 21. The researchers found that 9% of the children in the study, the equivalent to 7.6 million children across the U.S., were vitamin D deficient. Another 61%, or 50.8 million children, are vitamin D insufficient. Low levels of vitamin D raise the risk of bone disease, as well as heart disease and other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure.
Those most at risk for vitamin D deficiency are children who are older, female, African-American, Mexican-American, obese and those children who drank milk less than once a week, or who spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing videogames or using computers.
Taking vitamin D supplements and drinking more milk and fish, which are high in the vitamin, are ways to combat the deficiency. Dr. Michal L. Melamed, the study leader, also suggests that, “It would be good [the parents] for them to turn off the TV and send their kids outside. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day should be enough. And unless they burn easily, don’t put sunscreen on them until they’ve been out in the sun for 10 minutes, so they get the good stuff but not sun damage.”
In another study, researches also suggest getting your kids away from the TV, this time to prevent high blood pressure. The study showed children spend on average five hours each day sedentary, and of that time 1.5 hours are spent in front of the TV. The correlation between high blood pressure and screen time did not exist for computer time, only time spent in front of the TV. The findings held true regardless of the childrens’ weight.
“Given that total objective sedentary time was not associated with elevated blood pressure, it appears that other factors, which occur during excessive screen time, should also be considered,” including unhealthy snacking, the study states. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more then two hours of TV per day, which should be combined with at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
It would seem that outside play can help tackle high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency in your children, not to mention fighting weight gain and boredom. Having trouble getting your kids outside? The Daily Green has teamed up with National Wildlife Federation and has come up with 30 Ways to Get Your Kid to Play Outside.