Newsletters Archive

The Health and Wellness Letter - August 2007

August 2007, Vol. 1 No. 2

In This Issue

Vitamin D: No Ordinary Nutrient
Health Stories in the News
Vitamin D: No Ordinary Nutrient
In recent months, new research has revealed that most of us are deficient in vitamin D, a nutrient that Health Coachs and scientists once believed most people received in adequate amounts simply by spending time in the sun each day. It turns out this isn't so. In addition, recent studies indicate that vitamin D is far more important to your health than was previously believed, and that it is also one of the most important nutrients for preventing serious illness, including certain types of cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D was first discovered approximately 70 years ago, when researchers discovered that it was a component of cod liver oil. At that time, scientists were looking for a way to prevent rickets, a bone disease characterized by bone deformities and stunted bone growth, and which had been prevalent since the dawn of the Industrial Age. At the time had affected a large percentage of children born in urban areas throughout the United States and Northern Europe. Today, the incidence of rickets, and its adult counterpart, osteomalacia, is virtually nonexistent in the US and Europe due to the discovery that they can both be prevented by adequate sunlight exposure and cod oil supplements. (However, recent research originating in England shows that rickets is once again becoming a problem for young children due to less activity spent outdoors.)
Because vitamin D was found to be the component in cod liver oil responsible for the prevention of rickets, it was dubbed a vitamin. More recent research, however, indicates that vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone, meaning that it is produced in your body when you are exposed to sunlight, and is then converted to an active hormone by the kidneys and liver.
Until recently, vitamin D was primarily considered a nutrient that helped protect bone health and regulated calcium metabolism. It was also believed that most people obtained all the vitamin D they needed by daily exposure to 20 to 30 minutes of natural sunlight. New research indicates that the role vitamin D plays in the body is far more extensive than previously thought, as is the amount of D that is needed to provide its many health benefits.
Today, researchers know that vitamin D helps to protect against chronic, low-grade inflammation, a primary cause of a wide variety of illnesses, including both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Vitamin D can also boost immune function and acts a natural pain reliever. It has also been found to protect against heart disease, as well as diabetes. But perhaps the most exciting news about vitamin are recent findings that it can significantly reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
In fact, according to a four-year study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, supplementation of vitamin D at a daily dose of 1100 IU can significantly reduce the risk of all types of cancer in post-menopausal women by as much as 60 percent. But the most exciting finding about this study was what resulted when researchers, theorizing that some women entered the study with undiagnosed cancers, eliminated the first-year results and studied the data from the last three years of the study. After they did so, they found that vitamin D reduced the risk of all cancer by as much as 77 percent. This study follows a previous study published in the American Journal of Public Health two years earlier in which researchers found that vitamin D can decrease the risk of certain cancers, including colon cancer, by as much as 50 percent. This same study, which was based on an evaluation of over 60 previously published studies, also found that vitamin D can reduce breast and ovarian cancer by 30 percent. As a result of such findings, the Canadian Cancer Society is now recommending that all Canadians supplement their diets with a daily intake of 1000 IU of vitamin D.
Vitamin D also helps to protect against multiple sclerosis (MS). That's the conclusion of researchers who examined data related to over 187,000 female subjects over a many years. The researchers, who published their findings in Neurology in 2004, found that women whose daily vitamin D intake was 400 IU or greater were 40 percent less likely to develop MS, compared with women who did not take vitamin D supplements. Another interesting finding by the researchers was that the greatest risk reduction for MS occurred in women who obtained vitamin D through both their diet and through supplementation. However, women who obtained vitamin D from diet alone showed no reduced risk for MS.
Vitamin D may even help to protect against Alzheimer's disease according to another study of women with Alzheimer's disease that found that this debilitating condition is associated with a low intake of vitamin D as well as inadequate sunlight exposure. Although more research is necessary in order to substantiate whether vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease, this study certainly is suggestive that this is the case.
Given the important health benefits that vitamin D is now known to provide, researchers are also re-examining our daily need for this exceptional substance. Whereas it was previously thought that 400 IU was the upper limit for vitamin D supplementation, today many Health Coachs are recommending a daily dose of 1000 IU. However, since vitamin D is both fat soluble (meaning it is stored in your body's fat cells) and acts more like a hormone than a nutrient, you should first speak with your physician before supplementing with it. He or she can determine whether you are deficient in vitamin D through a simple blood test. This test screens for 25(OH)D, the most stable form of vitamin D in the human body. (Be sure your physician tests for 25(OH)D, and not for the less stable 1, 25-Dihyrdroxyvitamin D form, which is not an accurate indicator of your body's vitamin D stores.) The most recent research shows that a reading of 100nmol/L (40 ng/ml) or greater of 25(OH)D is optimum.
Should you and your Health Coach decide that you need to increase your intake of vitamin D, you can do so by increasing your exposure to natural sunlight each day, as well as supplementing with vitamin D3, which is better absorbed and utilized by your body than synthetic vitamin D2. Or you can take one tablespoon of cod liver oil each day, which will provide you with approximately 1300 IU of vitamin D. After one month of daily supplementation, have your Health Coach retest you to make sure that you are not getting too high or too low a dose of vitamin D.
Lappe JM, et. al. Vitamin D andcalcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 6, 1586-1591, June 2007.
Garland, CF, et. al. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention. Am J Public Health.2005; 0: AJPH.2004.045260v1.
Munger KL, et. al. Vitamin D intake and the incidence of multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2004 Jan 13;62(1):60-65.
Sato Y, Asoh T, Oizumi K. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and reduced bone mass in elderly women with Alzheimer's disease. Bone 1998;23:555-7.
Health Stories in the News
New Research Further Supports Coenzyme Q10's Cardiovascular Benefits
A recent randomized, controlled clinical trial found that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can improve blood flow in patients with coronary artery disease. In the study researchers randomly divided 38 coronary artery disease patients into two groups. One group of 19 subjects received CoQ10 orally at doses of 300 mg per day for one month; the remaining 19 patients received a placebo. During the trial period the researchers then studied whether CoQ10 supplementation could improve the widening of the arteries to allow for proper blood flow. They also studied CoQ10's effects on extracellular superoxide dismutase (ecSOD), a major antioxidant system of the arterial wall that is reduced in most patients with coronary artery disease.
At the end of the clinical trial, researchers found that the degree of relaxation of the arteries, as well as levels of extracellular superoxide dismutase and other improvements were significantly greater in the group taking CoQ10 compared to the placebo group. In fact, the researchers noted that the improvements achieved by the CoQ10 group "were remarkable," especially in test subjects who had low endothelium-bound extracellular superoxide dismutase before the trial began.
Reference: Tiano L, Effect of coenzyme Q10 administration on endothelial function andextracellular superoxide dismutase in patients with ischaemic heart disease: a double-blind, randomized controlled study. European Heart Journal. July 19, 2007.
Echinacea Helps Protect Against Colds
A recent review of 14 medical studies has determined that the herb Echinacea may significantly decrease the risk of contracting the common cold. The purpose of the review was to analyze and evaluate the effect Echinacea has on the incidence and duration of the common cold. In their review, researchers found that Echinacea decreased the risk of developing the common cold by between 58 and 65 percent and also reduced the duration of a cold by approximately one and a half days. Additionally, the researchers found that when Echinacea is combined with vitamin C, the risk of developing a cold is reduced by as much as 86 percent.
Reference: Shah SA, Evaluation of Echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Jul;7(7):473-80.

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