Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 23, 2017
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The vitamin that keeps on giving

We know the role vitamin D plays in the prevention of osteoporosis and colon cancer. However, a flurry of recent studies have linked vitamin D to other diseases. These studies also indicate that a significant proportion of the population is deficient in vitamin D.

Cognitive impairment
Dr David Llewellyn and his colleagues in England studied 858 people 65 and over. Participants were followed for six years and underwent blood tests and three different tests of cognitive function at enrollment and every three years. Seniors with the lowest vitamin D levels had the greatest cognitive declines.(1)

Diabetes
A study, presented that the meeting of the Endocrine Society in June 2010, suggests that vitamin D plays a role in type 2 diabetes.(2) Dr Esther Kurg and her colleagues reviewed the charts of 124 adults and seniors who had type 2 diabetes. Approximately 90 percent had either a deficiency or low levels of vitamin D. Those with the lowest levels had the highest blood-sugar levels.

Another study linked low levels of vitamin D to higher all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality in patients with diabetes.(3)

Cardiovascular disease
The Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men looked at the link between blood levels of vitamin D and mortality.(4) It studied 1194 men whose mean age at the beginning of the study was 71 and found that men with low concentrations of vitamin D had a higher cardiovascular mortality.

Rheumatic conditions and autoimmune disorders
A study from Italy found that 85 percent of patients with rheumatic conditions had low levels of vitamin D. Surprisingly, taking 800 IU of vitamin D daily did not improve the vitamin D status of 60 percent of those who took the supplement.(5) In another study that looked at patients with autoimmune disorders, vitamin D had an effect on up to 229 genes, particularly those that are correlated to MS, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, lupus and some types of cancers.(6)

Osteoporosis
In July 2010 the Canadian Osteoporosis Society revised its clinical guidelines to include recommending “400-1000 IU of vitamin D without osteoporosis or conditions affecting vitamin D absorption. For adults over 50, supplements between 800 and 2000 IU are recommended.” (7)

All patients should be routinely screened for 25-OH vitamin D levels. Screening should ideally take place in the fall and winter months when the body is using its stores of vitamin D.(8)

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