The Plain Truth

The Plain Truth
God's Hand Behind the News

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vitamin D: Good for More than Bones

We know that vitamin D helps the bones by preventing osteoporosis and fractures, but did you know that vitamin D also plays an important role in the prevention of many other diseases, including cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases like MS and Type 1 diabetes, arthritis, infections, chronic pain and muscle weakness? Here is the latest research on this versatile vitamin:

Vitamin D helps control pain. A fascinating study from the Mayo clinic published last month online in the journal Pain Medicine looked at vitamin D levels in people with chronic pain. They found that patients who had low vitamin D levels required almost twice as much narcotic pain medication as those with normal levels. The vitamin D-deficient folks also perceived their health as poor. Another study from the Mayo Clinic in 2003 looked at the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in people ages 10-65 with chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue – 93 percent of them were found to be vitamin D-deficient.

Vitamin D helps the heart. A study published last month in the journal Circulation looked at the impact of vitamin D blood levels on heart health in people with high blood pressure. Participants in the study with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to have angina, a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke as those with normal vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D reduces the risk of falls. Another study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, published in March, looked at the effect of vitamin D supplements on falls in older women. A team of researchers in Australia gave 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day to 300 women ages 70-90, all of whom had low blood levels of vitamin D and had also fallen in the past year. They found that in those women who had fallen once in the past year, vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of falls – but only in the winter months when the sun's rays are weaker and less vitamin D is made in the skin. In women who had fallen multiple times, vitamin D did not seem to help, possibly because these women were more frail and were falling for other reasons.

Who is deficient in vitamin D? Perhaps you are. An adequate blood level is probably at least 40-60 ng/ml. It is estimated that 25 percent to 100 percent of adults are deficient, depending on the population and time of year; many children are deficient as well.

Primitive people relied on sun exposure for all their vitamin D; now, however, most of us work inside, and when we do go out, we slather on the sun screen, which impairs our ability to make vitamin D. Older folks, people of color and people who live at higher latitudes are also at higher risk of deficiency. Most vitamin D in food, such as dairy products, does not occur naturally; it is added as a supplement and is not considered a reliable form of intake, since amounts may vary from product to product. Most of us need at least 800 units per day.

Bottom line? It may help you to take supplemental vitamin D.

Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program in Sacramento, Calif.

source: The Sacramento Bee

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