Monday, August 24, 2009

Vitamin D in the Spotlight -- Again

Last year, I blogged about vitamin D as an agent to prevent breast cancer. My interest in vitamin D began when I found an ad promoting the health benefits of tanning salons because the exposure to ultraviolet light increases production of vitamin D, something most adults get too little of. Mostly, vitamin D is thought of as important for bone strength, and as something helpful in preventing osteoporosis.

Research presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology demonstrating that vitamin D may play a role in preventing breast cancer caused a huge sensation. There is also evidence that vitamin D may prevent colon cancer. Of course, everything about nutrition is complicated, including vitamin D needs – too much vitamin D can be a bad thing. Proper balance is everything. Moderation in all things.

As complicated as understanding the role of a vitamin in the health of an adult can be, it is even harder in children, who are growing and therefore can have changing needs. An important study investigating the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in children and the implications for heart disease was just published in the journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A team led by Michal Melamed, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, surveyed the vitamin D levels of over 6,000 children registered in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and correlated these levels with various cardiovascular risk factors. Their surprising results? Almost 10% of children in the US are vitamin D deficient, and fully 61% were vitamin D insufficient (meaning their levels were too low, but not low enough to be called deficient).

Why is this a problem? Low vitamin D levels were correlated with higher blood pressures and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol). Both of these are significant risk factors for heart disease in adults. This finding provides a key link between childhood nutrition and the development of heart disease in adulthood.

This is potentially a very important study. The question of why some adults develop heart disease while others do not is a complicated one, and many of us have long believed that adult disorders can have their roots in childhood. This study supports that belief, and also strongly supports the idea that intervention in the health of a child can have profound implications throughout her life.

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Marilyn Mann said...

I worry about my 16-year-old daughter's vitamin D levels, because she doesn't drink very much milk and I have been unsuccessful in trying to get her to take a vitamin D supplement. I recently asked her pediatrician to check her vitamin D level, but the pediatrician refused because she said my daughter had "no indication" for checking her vitamin D. Not sure what to do about this.

If vitamin D levels really affect cardiovascular health, that would be important for my daughter, because she has familial hypercholesterolemia. Right now, I am more worried about her bone health, though. Suggestions?


Doctor David said...

Given your family history, Marilyn, I would gently ask your daughter's pediatrician if he has seen this article, and explain that you are worried about the correlation they found between low vitamin D levels and low HDL and see if he is willing to draw a level on that basis. If he is, and if her level is low, supplementation may make sense for her.

RG said...

Excellent article. The good thing is, I totally love milk! I have milk for breakfast and even is much better than drinking coke...

Dr Kelly Sennholz said...

It seems apparent that getting the amounts of vitamin D that is required to ameliorate or prevent disease cannot be obtained reliably from the diet. Supplementation for adults with 2000 IU of D3 during fall, winter, spring appears to be the most reliable way to insure results.
Dr. Kelly Sennholz

micke hakansson said...

Vitamin D is important.

I give you a link to a page with a very sad but true story about a woman that has gone tru life with a disease that causes severe malabsorption in the end.

Sad but interesting reading.

Marilyn Mann said...

Doctor David,

I already tried to bring up the study in Pediatrics, but she just said "you can find a study to prove anything." Also, I asked my daughter's cardiologist (Steve Nissen) if he thought it was a good idea to check her vitamin D level and he said that it couldn't hurt to check it. I mentioned that to the pediatrician, and she said that she would be willing to talk to Dr. Nissen. However, he told me that some doctors just don't like to be challenged and suggested I just drop it.

I am not a person who gives up easily, but I am still thinking about what to do next. I am thinking about writing the pediatrician a letter and attaching some vitamin D research.

Part of the problem is that my daughter apparently told the pediatrician that she drinks 3 glasses of milk a day which is not true at all. More like one. I told the pediatrician that also and she said she would be willing to talk to Monica about the need to get enough calcium and vitamin D. So I guess I could make an appointment and bring her in to talk to the doctor. I am dubious that that would work, however. Lecturing to teenagers tends not to work, although it has a better chance of working when the lecturer is not a parent.


mrugesh said...

Thanks for this blog I never thought that vitamin D would be the reason for danger Diseases thanks for your vitamin D research.

Omega 3 Fish Oil said...

Nice article about Vitamin D. I'm looking for a Fish Oil Supplement Blog. Do you have Doctor David? Thanks! - Cristine, USA

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