Scientists find an association between vitamin D and weight


People who are focused on staying healthy probably know about the potential benefits of vitamin D and the importance of maintaining sufficient levels of this nutrient in the body. While it is well-known that vitamin D is associated with bone health, many individuals may be unaware of the other ways this vitamin may help keep people healthy. For example, researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon recently found a possible connection between vitamin D and weight management.

The scientists noticed that older women who had insufficient vitamin D levels were more likely to gain weight than those who had the recommended amount of this nutrient in their systems. This suggest that people who maintain their vitamin D levels may have an easier time managing their weight as well.

According to the researchers, although the weight gain difference was only about two or three pounds, this can really add up over the years. Excess weight can cause a number of health problems in the elderly.

"Nearly 80 percent of women in our study had insufficient levels of vitamin D. A primary source of this important vitamin is sunlight, and as modern societies move indoors, continuous Vitamin D insufficiency may be [affecting people's weight],"  study author Erin LeBlanc, M.D., an endocrinologist and researcher.

While it's true that most people get vitamin D from sun exposure, there are other ways to absorb this nutrient. Individuals need to be careful about how much time they spend in the sun, which is why people should consume fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, drink fortified milk and orange juice and talk to their healthcare provider about whether they should take vitamin D supplements. 

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Vitamin D may benefit elderly people


Vitamins are an important part of human health, which is why people need to eat a healthy diet of vitamin-rich foods and take supplements whenever necessary. Recently, a study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggested that getting adequate amounts of vitamin D could be extremely beneficial for elderly individuals. While it is well-known that this nutrient may boost joint health, this study has shown that vitamin D has benefits that extend beyond the bones.

"We found that calcium with vitamin D supplementation to elderly participants is overall not harmful to survival, and may have beneficial effects on general health," said Lars Rejnmark, Ph.D., of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark and lead author of the study.

The researchers used pooled data from eight studies with more than 1,000 participants each to come to their conclusion. Participants were an average of 70 years old, and the majority were women. This isn't surprising, since vitamin D has often been considered beneficial to women's health. The scientists found that individuals who took vitamin D with calcium have improved health compared to those who did not.

This study suggests that elderly individuals, particularly women, should talk to their doctor about testing their vitamin D levels to make sure they are maintaining healthy amounts of this nutrient in their system. This is something that can be a struggle for many older adults.

While vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure, many elderly people have difficulty spending enough time outdoors to get their levels of this nutrient where they should be. This is why many older individuals are prescribed vitamin D supplements by their doctors. This nutrient can also be found in cod fish oil, salmon, tuna and fortified milk and cereals. 

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Vitamin D recommendations may be inadequate

The government's official recommended daily allowance guidelines for most nutrients are based largely on suggestions from the Institute of Medicine, an independent scientific advisory group. However, one expert is saying the IOM recommendation for daily vitamin D may not be sound, at least for some individuals.

In an interview with Ob.Gyn News Digital Network, Dr. Neil Binkley, a geriatrician and scientist at the University of Wisconsin, pointed out that the IOM recommendations for daily vitamin D consumption are largely uniform across age groups. In fact, the guidelines say that a 1-year-old child should have the same daily vitamin D intake as a 70-year-old adult.

Given the fact that people have different nutritional needs at different stages of life, this recommendation may not make much sense, Binkley told the news source. It is currently one of only a small handful of nutrients that have similar recommended daily allowances regardless of a person's age.

Additionally, Binkley said that the IOM vitamin D recommendations were formulated from a public health point of view. This may lead to benefits for populations, but it means the recommendations are less responsive to the needs of individuals.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that vitamin D plays a central role in supporting bone health. This is a much greater concern for older women than it is for younger men. Therefore, there is little reason why these two demographic groups should have the same recommendations for daily vitamin D consumption.

The recommendations may not be adequate for reasons other than the fact that they advise uniform consumption among various age groups. In recent years, numerous studies have linked the nutrient to a number of health benefits and some experts have said most people need more than 600 international units per day.

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Society says further proof of vitamin D health benefits is needed

A group of experts is calling on researchers to conduct high-quality clinical investigations into the health benefits of vitamin D, saying that the nutrient holds major promise but doctors need more accurate information to make treatment recommendations to patients.

In recent years, a significant number of studies have linked vitamin D to a long list of health benefits, including support for cardiovascular well-being and skin health. However, few of these studies have offered the kind of evidence medical professionals need in order to make definitive claims. This is because of how the trials were designed.

Most have been observational studies that looked for associations between vitamin D levels and certain health effects. These types of investigation can suggest that higher levels of the nutrient may be linked to support for health, but they cannot prove that vitamin D is responsible for changes in health.

To overcome this hurdle, the Endocrine Society released a scientific statement calling on researchers to start clinical trials that compare the effects of vitamin D supplements to those of a placebo. This would enable scientists to prove that changes in health were the direct result of nutritional supplements.

"We need large, randomized, controlled trials and dose-response data to test the effects of vitamin D on chronic disease outcomes including autoimmunity, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease," said Clifford Rosen, who authored the group's statement.

Until this type of study is conducted, it will be difficult for doctors to confidently recommend that their patients take vitamin D supplements. The amount of evidence that has accumulated in recent years certainly makes it look like the nutrient is responsible for major health benefits. But doctors need hard proof of the effects of the nutrient in the human body.

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Study links vitamin D to metabolic health

Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that about one-third of all adults in the have insufficient levels of vitamin D. New research indicates that this trend may put individuals at a greater risk of experiencing metabolic complications.

A team of researchers from Tufts Medical Center in Boston examined the association between vitamin D levels and metabolic complications in a group of at-risk individuals. The results suggested that participants who had the highest levels of the nutrient in their blood exhibited the strongest metabolic health.

The findings provide one more reason why people should make efforts to boost their vitamin D levels. Numerous studies conducted over the past few years have indicated that the nutrient may support heart health and immune health. The latest research adds to the growing list of observed health benefits associated with vitamin D.

However, the findings also highlight the serious nature of the vitamin D insufficiency epidemic. For years, the nutrient was presumed only to support bone health. Because of the limited nature of its known health benefits, medical experts failed to place a strong emphasis on it, and many people allowed their vitamin D levels to dip into unhealthy territory.

Now, as evidence of the wide range of health benefits associated with the nutrient continues to emerge, it is clear that people with very low levels may face health risks.  

One of the easiest ways to boost vitamin D levels is to take nutritional supplements containing it. Oily fish, mushrooms and fortified foods also contain vitamin D, but with so few natural food sources, it can be difficult to maintain adequate levels through diet alone. 

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Sunscreen can block vitamin D production

Concerns over skin cancer have prompted many people in recent years to start covering up their skin and slathering on sunscreen. While this may protect their skin from the harmful aspects of the sun's ultraviolet rays, one expert says it may also contribute to low vitamin D levels.

Dr. Richard Granstein, the chairman of dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical College/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, told the New York Times that sunscreen can block the ultraviolet rays that allow the skin to produce vitamin D.

He said that individuals who use sunscreen to protect themselves from harmful radiation should take steps to boost vitamin D levels. This is particularly true for those who live in northern parts of the country where the sun's rays are the weakest.

Nutritional supplements are one effective way for individuals to boost their levels of vitamin D, Granstein told the news source. He added that eating more foods that are rich in the nutrient can also help. These include fatty fish and fortified foods. Most dairy products have vitamin D added to them.

Spending more time in the sun is generally not recommended by dermatologists. While this may help boost vitamin D levels, it can also be risky. This is a fact that most people have recognized, as indicated by the growing use of sunscreen.

The Institute of Medicine recommended in 2010 that most American adults under the age of 70 consume 600 international units of vitamin D each day. Older adults should try to get at least 800 international units.

Given that there are relatively few foods that contain the nutrient, individuals may need to consider taking nutritional supplements to reach these levels. 

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Researchers identify optimal blood levels of vitamin D

There has been a significant amount of debate in the scientific community in recent years regarding the levels at which people should maintain vitamin D concentrations in the blood. Experts have questioned established standards as new evidence has emerged regarding the benefits of the nutrient.

Now, a team of investigators from the Kidney Research Institute may have helped answer the question. They conducted a study that compared the health of older individuals while taking into consideration vitamin D levels.

The group found that participants tended to have optimal health when they maintained blood levels of vitamin D of at least 20 nanomoles per milliliter. Individuals who had levels below this threshold appeared to be at a higher risk of several common health consequences.

The team said the findings largely support recommendations recently made by the Institute of Medicine, which advised individuals to maintain at least this level of vitamin D in the blood.

In order to keep blood levels of vitamin D this high, individuals may need to start taking nutritional supplements, the researchers said. They pointed out that sun exposure is the main source of the nutrient for most people. However, this poses a problem because spending too much time in the sun can lead to the development of skin cancer.

Wearing sunscreen can eliminate the cancer risk but, it also blocks out the rays that stimulate vitamin D production. Eating more foods that are naturally rich in the nutrient or have been fortified may also help. However, with a relatively small number of these foods, supplements may be a person's best bet for maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. 

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Researchers explain vitamin D’s vital role in immune health

Numerous investigations have shown that vitamin D plays an important role in supporting immune health, but less was known about its specific functions and how it benefits the body's defenses. Now, a study may help explain exactly how the nutrient supports immune health.

A team of researchers from Cantabria University in Spain took blood samples from a group of participants and analyzed vitamin D levels, as well as immune function. The results showed that participants who had lower levels of the nutrient had decreased activation of a receptor on immune cells that activates other cells that hunt down and kill viruses.

The researchers said the findings may help explain why people's immune health tends to be compromised during the winter months. During these periods, individuals are less likely to expose their skin to the sun's rays, which are the most prominent source of vitamin D for most people. Even if they do get out in the sun, its rays are weaker and less effective. This may have major consequences for immune health.

For this reason, the researchers recommended vitamin D supplements for individuals who are concerned about their immune health. These products may provide a valuable lift in nutrient levels at a time of year when it is most needed. Furthermore, the findings showed that older individuals tend to have the lowest vitamin D levels, so supplements are likely most useful among this group.

"Vitamin D supplements should be considered one of many tools that might help when conventional therapies are not enough," said researcher Victor Manuel Martinez-Taboada.

An editorial that accompanied the study pointed out that vitamin D supplements are generally safe and inexpensive, so there is little reason why people who are looking to support immune health should not consider using them.

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Many doctors may be unsure when to test vitamin D levels

Vitamin D testing plays an important role in diagnosing deficiencies or insufficiencies. Without these diagnoses, it is difficult for physicians to recommend treatments for their patients. However, a new study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology suggests that it may not always be clear to physicians when they should test a patient.

It is obvious when some people should be tested. Individuals who have darker skin, are overweight or rarely spend any time with their skin exposed to the sun face a high risk of experiencing a deficiency. However, these individuals aren't the only ones who face deficiency risk.

Some may simply not spend enough time in the sun, which is harder to quantify than spending no time at all in the sun. Other people may have minor dietary insufficiencies that make it difficult for them to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D. While these people may not be obvious candidates for testing, they may benefit from having their levels checked.

In fact, in the new study, researchers tested vitamin D levels in groups of young people in northern Italy. They found that many people who lacked traditional risk factors had insufficient levels of the nutrient.

The authors said that there are currently no guidelines that suggest physicians test every patient. Yet determining who should be screened can be difficult. For this reason, they said there is a grey area when it comes to testing.

Individuals who are concerned about their vitamin D levels can always talk to their doctor about testing. Alternatively, they can simply start taking nutritional supplements. Studies have suggested that most people have insufficient levels of the nutrient, so supplements are likely to have some benefit for most people. 

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Vitamin D levels may be linked to men’s testosterone levels

Low testosterone levels may be a risk factor for several men's health issues, but maintaining higher vitamin D levels in the blood may aid in the management of this important hormone's levels. Experts say the nutrient plays a central role in regulating the activity of certain hormones.

A study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology indicated that men who have higher vitamin D levels tend to also have more testosterone in their blood. The Harvard School of Public Health researchers who conducted the study said the findings do not necessarily prove that greater amounts of vitamin D lead to higher levels of testosterone. But the results do suggest that the two substances are related.

While vitamin D has many properties that are similar to those of other nutrients, it is actually a hormone produced naturally in the body. Therefore, it is not a stretch to think that it may interact with other hormones in the body.

Mickey Barber, the CEO and chief medical officer of Cenegenics Carolinas, said that because of its link to testosterone, vitamin D may play an important role in helping men age well. Since low testosterone has been shown to influence a number of areas of well-being, taking steps to support healthy levels is key.

"The link between vitamin D and testosterone levels is key for healthy age management for men," Barber said. "I recommend getting about twenty minutes of sunshine a day."

Aside from spending time in the sun, men may be able to boost their vitamin D levels by eating more foods like mushrooms and salmon or taking nutritional supplements. Either approach can help support improved vitamin D status, which could have numerous health benefits.

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