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Posts tagged ‘Vitamin D’

Vitamin D ‘boosts child muscles’

Higher levels of maternal vitamin D during pregnancy have been linked to better muscle development in children, say researchers.

The study on 678 children, published in Endocrine Research, showed vitamin D levels in the womb were linked to grip strength at the age of four.

The team at the University of Southampton say the muscle boost could persist throughout life.

Trials are taking place to see how effective pregnancy supplements are.

Most vitamin D is made by the skin when exposed to sunlight and supplements are offered during pregnancy.

Some doctors have voiced concerns about vitamin D deficiency as people become more “sun aware” and have linked it with a range of health problems.

Hold tight

The team at the University of Southampton investigated the impact of the vitamin in pregnancy.

Blood samples were taken 34 weeks into the pregnancy and the vitamin D levels were compared with how tightly their children could squeeze a device in their hand at the age of four.

The results showed that women with high levels of vitamin D in the late stages of pregnancy were more likely to have children with greater muscle strength.

Dr Nicholas Harvey told the BBC that: “There’s some evidence that ‘fast’ muscle fibres go down in vitamin D deficiency and you get more fat in muscle.

“If there is deficiency in utero then they may end up with a lower number of numbers of these ‘fast’ muscle fibres.”

The group in Southampton is now conducting a trial in which 1,200 expectant mothers are given higher doses of vitamin D supplements to assess the impact on both bone and muscle strength.

Dr Harvey said there may be long term benefits to increasing muscle strength.

“It peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures.

“It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age.”

Prof Cyrus Cooper, from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, added: “This work should help us to design interventions aimed at optimising body composition in childhood and later adulthood and thus improve the health of future generations.”

It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age”

Dr Nicholas HarveyResearcher

via BBC News – Vitamin D ‘boosts child muscles’.

Doubt cast on vitamin D’s role against disease

Vitamin D supplements are recommended for young children and the elderly


Scientists have cast doubt on the value of vitamin D supplements to protect against diseases such as cancers, diabetes and dementia.

Writing in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, French researchers suggest low vitamin D levels do not cause ill health, although they did not look at bone diseases.

More clinical trials on non-skeletal diseases are needed, they say.

Vitamin D supplements are recommended for certain groups.

What this suggests is that decreases in vitamin D levels are a marker of deteriorating health. ”

Prof Philippe AutierInternational Prevention Research Institute

Recent evidence has shown it may also have a role to play in preventing non-bone-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, dementia, cancers and inflammatory diseases.

Prof Philippe Autier, from the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, carried out a review of data from 290 prospective observational studies and 172 randomised trials looking at the effects of vitamin D levels on health outcomes, excluding bone health, up to December 2012.


A large number of the observational studies suggested that there were benefits from high vitamin D – that it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by up to 58%, diabetes by up to 38% and colorectal cancer by up to 33%.

But the results of the clinical trials – where participants were given vitamin D supplements – found no reduction in risk, even in people who started out with low vitamin D levels.

And a further analysis of recent randomised trials found no positive effect of vitamin D supplements on diseases occurring.

Prof Autier said: “What this discrepancy suggests is that decreases in vitamin D levels are a marker of deteriorating health.

What is a vitamin D deficiency?

A vitamin D level less than 25nmol/L in the blood is a deficiency, but experts increasingly believe that lower than 60nmol/L can also be damaging to health.

Most people get enough vitamin D by being exposed to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes a day.

A small amount of vitamin D also comes from foods such as oily fish and dairy products.

Recently England’s chief medical officer said free vitamins should be given to all young children because more and more of them were being diagnosed with the bone disease rickets, lack of calcium and other bone and muscle diseases.

“Ageing and inflammatory processes involved in disease occurrence… reduce vitamin D concentrations, which would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.”

High risk

In the UK, vitamin D supplements are recommended for groups at higher risk of deficiency, including all pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five years old, people aged over 65, and people at risk of not getting enough exposure to sunlight.

People with dark skin, such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, and people who wear full-body coverings, as well as pale-skinned people are also known to be at higher risk.

In recent years, there has been a four-fold increase in admissions to UK hospital with rickets – a disease that causes bones to become soft and deformed.

Dr Colin Michie, consultant senior lecturer in paediatrics and chair of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the review had little to contribute to the problem in the UK because it excluded the measurement of bone health.

“It has been known for almost a century that vitamin D supplements given to those with deficient vitamin D levels results in improved bone health, preventing hypocalcemic seizure and rickets.”

He added that it was important to provide appropriate supplements, such as vitamin D, to improve bone health.

More research

Peter Selby, consultant physician and honorary professor of metabolic bone disease at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said the French review was limited.

“It could very well be that the apparent negative results of this study have been obtained simply because they have not been looking at people with sufficient degree of vitamin D insufficiency to have any meaningful biological effect.”

But he said the authors were right to say that more interventional research looking at disease outcomes was necessary.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), an independent group of scientific experts who advise the government on nutrition, is currently reviewing the dietary recommendations for vitamin D for all population groups in the UK.

Their report on vitamin D is expected to go out for public consultation in 2014.

via BBC News – Doubt cast on vitamin D’s role against disease.

Vitamins may reduce cancer risk in men, study finds

Are vitamins a new frontier in fighting cancer?

Taking a daily multivitamin pill may lower the risk of developing cancer in men, US researchers have claimed.
Their study followed nearly 15,000 men, aged over 50, for more than a decade.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported a small reduction in cancer cases in men taking vitamin pills.

But experts warned that other studies had found the opposite effect and that eating a diet packed with fruit and vegetables was a safer bet.

Vitamin supplements are recommended for some groups of people, such as vitamin D in the over 65s.

However, the benefits of multivitamins on general health have been mixed. Some studies suggest they cause more harm than good when taken by healthy people while others have shown no benefit in cancer.

Doctors at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School analysed data from men who were given either a multivitamin or a sugar pill every day.

Diet emphasis

There were 17 cancers per 1,000 people taking multivitamins per year compared with 18 cancers per 1,000 people taking the dummy pills per year.

One of the researchers, Dr Howard Sesso said: “Many studies have suggested that eating a nutritious diet may reduce a man’s risk of developing cancer.

“Now we know that taking a daily multivitamin, in addition to addressing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, may also be considered in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men.”

The researchers do not know if a similar effect would be seen in women or in younger men.

Dr Helga Groll, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Although this study suggests that men in the trial had a slightly lower cancer risk if they took multivitamins, we can’t be sure from this research whether this is a true effect or down to chance.

“Many other large studies tell us that vitamin and mineral supplements don’t protect against cancer – they either have no effect or can even increase cancer risk in some cases.

“The best way to get a full range of vitamins and minerals is to eat a healthy, balanced diet with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Most healthy people shouldn’t need to take supplements although some may be advised to do so by their doctor.”


Antioxidant-rich diet offers most benefits to breast cancer survivors

Antioxidants that protect against or repair cell damage are found in colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and red peppers (Jupiter Images)
By Barbara Sadick
Chicago Tribune
POSTED:   10/09/2012 12:01:00 AM MDT

Cheryl McGee has battled breast cancer. Twice. She’s undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and treatments for infection, but dietary management was never part of her treatment protocol.

“I don’t know why nobody ever told me to go to a nutritionist or how important diet is to recurrence,” McGee said. “A nurse once told me in passing to try to stay away from too much sugar,” but that was it.

On her own initiative, she started to eat a healthier diet, loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables. “I’m feeling better than I have in a long time.”

Scientists continue to learn more about the effects dietary changes can have on people with breast cancer, and this year, for the first time, the American Cancer Society is confident enough in the research to issue guidelines encouraging more attention to exercise and diet to help maximize health and reduce breast cancer recurrence.

Past studies have indicated that overweight and obese women have a higher risk of recurrence from breast cancer than women who are slimmer. That’s because carrying around so much extra weight can compromise the immune system, leading to chronic inflammation. This increases levels of estrogen that contribute to cancer formation, said Joseph Sparano, associate chairman of the Department of Oncology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Sparano and Jennifer Ligibel, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, have recently conducted trials showing that the relationship between obesity and increased risk of breast cancer recurrence and death is true for patients treated with the most current chemotherapy regimens.

With this in mind, breast cancer survivors can be proactive with their weight and diet. “When women are diagnosed with breast cancer and are scared, they usually will do anything, such as change diet, to prevent another ‘bullet,’ ” said Lillie Shockney, administrative director of Johns Hopkins Breast Center and its Cancer Survivorship Programs. “But the problem is sustaining the changes, which usually last about six months and then wane as the fear subsides.”

Shockney said people are more likely to stick with dietary changes if they make them a little at a time. Looking at labels to determine nutritional content and becoming more informed about what you’re eating is a good start.

What to eat: The American Cancer Society advises survivors to reach a healthy body weight, to exercise and to limit high-calorie foods.

Portion control can help you reach those goals, but what foods, specifically, should you be shunning or embracing?

Doctors and nutritionists versed in the latest research recommend a plant-based diet rich in natural compounds known as phytochemicals, said Amanda Bontempo, oncology dietitian at Montefiore-Einstein Center for Cancer Care.

Phytochemicals have health-promoting properties that work together with vitamins and nutrients to prevent, halt and lessen diseases. They act as antioxidants to protect against or repair damage to cells and are found mostly in colorful fruits and vegetables but also often found in beans, grains, onions, garlic and corn.

Breast cancer survivors “should eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods every day,” Bontempo said. Her dietary advice follows:

Less of: Red meat, processed meat, trans fats, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, refined sugars and other “white” foods. The American Cancer Society warns that alcohol could increase the risk of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer recurrence and recommends no more than one drink a day. Soda should also be avoided because it interferes with calcium absorption and has absolutely no nutritional value.

More of: Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil and lean protein such as fish, poultry and beans. Include semolina pasta, whole-grain breads and whole grains themselves like bulgur, barley and quinoa, but do keep portion size in mind. Turmeric, ginger and other healthy herbs and spices contain potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, also rich in phytochemicals, help fight breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective hormone. They’re also a good source of vitamin C and soluble fiber, which helps control weight by slowing down digestion and making you feel full.

Omega 3, the fatty acid found in flaxseed and oily fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring, may benefit the immune system by reducing inflammation and the risk of metastatic cancer.

Allium vegetables that include garlic and onion are known to be protective and can be added to almost any dish. Tomatoes, berries, whole grains, apples, legumes and green peas are also rich in anti-cancerous properties.

White and green teas are recommended because they contain antioxidants that may stave off breast-cancer recurrence.

Whole soy, which mimics estrogen, can be eaten in moderation, Bontempo said, but processed soy is high in estrogen and should be avoided. For those being treated with tamoxifen, any soy can interfere with therapy, so consult with your doctor.

Vitamin D can directly or indirectly control carcinogenic genes in the body, studies show. Sun-dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, egg yolk, fortified cow’s milk, fortified soy milk and other foods contain high levels of vitamin D.

“Supplements and sunlight are also sources of vitamin D,” said Bontempo, “but every breast-cancer survivor should consult a physician before taking any supplement, because supplements are not FDA regulated and could contain harmful chemicals.” Vitamin D, required for optimal calcium absorption, can also be found in spinach and white beans.

Water should be a survivor’s go-to drink. It flushes toxins out of vital organs and carries nutrients to cells.

Read more:Antioxidant-rich diet offers most benefits to breast cancer survivors – The Denver Post
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Brittle bones

Too late: An X-ray is not the best way to detect osteoporosis because by the time it shows up on X-ray (as very thin and lighter bones), at least 30% of bone has been lost.

Osteoporosis leads to brittle bones that are more prone to fractures.

MY aunt went for a routine medical check-up. She had some X-rays and the doctor told her that she has osteoporosis. What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that is caused by decreased density in your bones. This causes your bone to be abnormal and porous, and thus much weaker and more fragile.

When your bones are weak, they fracture a lot more easily, especially with small injuries that would not otherwise break normal bone.

Osteoporosis is very, very common. In fact, every one out of two white women will experience a fracture due to osteoporosis in her lifetime.

After age 35, we start to lose 0.3 to 0.5% of our bone density every year as we age. If you are a woman, as long as you have your periods, you are protected by oestrogen.

But as soon as you hit menopause, this loss of bone density increases exponentially, as much as 2 to 4% loss per year.

But my aunt never knew she had osteoporosis before this. She certainly didn’t have any pain in her bones.

Unfortunately or fortunately, osteoporosis can be there for a long, long time without causing any symptoms, and you don’t know you have it until you have the first fracture.

Worse still, osteoporotic fractures can be present for years without any symptoms either.

Osteoporosis can cause fractures in your hips and spine, two places that can cause severe discomfort and disability. Hip fractures usually occur after a fall. A fracture of your spine can cause severe pain that radiates from your back to the sides of your body, causing chronic back pain.

For some people, osteoporosis can cause repeated spinal fractures, resulting in them losing their height. Their spines can also start to curve, giving a “dowager hump” hunchback appearance in their upper back. This is more commonly seen in older people.

And because your bones are so weak, even your feet can develop stress fractures during walking or stepping off a sidewalk.

Other than causing fractures, osteoporosis is not dangerous, is it? I mean, it’s not like heart disease.

Well, think again. Once you have a fracture, you lose mobility. If you are elderly, you can develop pneumonia and blood clots in your leg veins a lot more easily.

Pneumonia can kill you, especially if you are older. And these blood clots that develop in your leg veins can travel up to your lungs and get stuck there. This is called pulmonary embolism.

Studies have shown that osteoporosis is linked with an increased risk of death. In fact, 20% of women who have a hip fracture will die within the year as an indirect result of the fracture.

Scary, but true.

Is every woman at risk of osteoporosis, then?

Yes. As long as you are female, you are at risk. Other risk factors include:

> Being Asian

> Being thin and having a small body frame

> Menopause

> Having a family history of osteoporosis, such as if your mother and grandmother had osteoporosis

> If you have had a fracture as an adult

> If you smoke

> If you consume alcohol excessively

> If you don’t exercise

> If you don’t eat much calcium-containing foods, such as milk and other dairy products

> If you have vitamin D deficiency

> If you have malabsorption in your gut

> If you don’t have periods in your young age, such as if you exercise severely

> If you have been immobile because of disease, such as a stroke

> If you have diseases like chronic rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyrodism

> If you take certain long-term medications like steroids and heparin

Factor: Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis. —Reuters

Is X-ray the only way to diagnose osteoporosis?

No. An X-ray is not even the best way to detect osteoporosis because by the time it shows up on X-ray (as very thin and lighter bones), at least 30% of bone has been lost.

A DEXA scan or dual-energy X-ray absorptionmetry scan is the best test to perform. This test gives you your T score. If you have a T score of -2.5 and below, you have osteoporosis.

There’s a condition called osteopenia that is somewhere between normal and osteoporosis. This has a T score of -1 and -2.5

Is there anything I can do to combat osteoporosis?

You can take calcium supplements, but they are often not enough. You also need vitamin D. When you have menopause, you can take hormone replacement therapy.

And there are plenty of drugs such as the bisphosphonates that can prevent osteoporosis. Be careful though. Once you take a bisphosphonate, you must stay upright for at least 30 minutes or they can cause serious gastro-esophageal side effects.

The Star

Top up on sunshine and vitamin D, says charity

Sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D


People should go outside and soak up some sunshine to help increase their vitamin D levels, a charity is urging.

Arthritis Research UK says vitamin D deficiency can cause bone loss, muscle function problems and, in some cases, rickets in children.

The government recommends vitamin D supplements for pregnant women and children aged under five.

But, on sunny days, a few minutes outdoors should achieve the same results, the charity says.

In January the chief medical officer for England said she was concerned that young children and some adults were not getting enough vitamin D.

Figures show that up to a quarter of the population has low levels of vitamin D in their blood and the majority of pregnant women do not take vitamin D supplements.

People aged over 65, pregnant and breast-feeding women and children aged six months to five years old are thought to be most at risk.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

From June to August just 15 minutes outside is generally enough time”

Arthritis Research UK

Vitamin D is essential to help the body absorb calcium from food.

Low levels can result in serious problems with the health of our bones.

Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said the advice was simple: “When the days are sunny, go out for a few minutes and expose your face and arms to the sunshine.”

But he also had a warning on overexposure: “Don’t allow your skin to go red, and take care not to burn, particularly in strong sunshine and if you have fair or sensitive skin.

“From June to August just 15 minutes is generally enough time.”

The sun’s UV levels are not yet strong enough over the UK for our bodies alone to make enough vitamin D.

He said: “In less sunny months, we recommend that people top up the vitamin D in their diet by eating more oily fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, pilchards and sardines, and foods ‘fortified’ with vitamin D, such as breakfast cereals and some margarines.”

Read More : BBC

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