ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
Fall Sports Peak Time for Lower Leg Damage
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
CANCER
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Selenium, Omega-3s May Stave Off Colorectal Cancer
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Older Caregivers Prone to Worse Sleep Patterns
Mild Flu Season Coming to a Close
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
DIABETES
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
DIET, NUTRITION
Compound in Berries May Lessen Sun Damage
Fruits, Vegetables, Teas May Cut Smokers' Cancer Risk
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Gas Cooking Might Up Your Cancer Risk
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels
EYE CARE, VISION
FDA Goes After Unapproved Eye Washes, Skin Ointments
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
'Organic' May Not Mean Healthier
Food and Water Supply Poisoned by Perchlorate
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
MENTAL HEALTH
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
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Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D

WEDNESDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D levels are deficient in many critically ill patients, new research shows.

In a small study, Australian researchers found that almost half of people in an intensive care unit were deficient in vitamin D.

"Vitamin D deficiency is likely to be common in seriously ill patients," said study author Dr. Paul Lee, an endocrinologist and research fellow at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. "In our study, 45 percent of critically ill patients were vitamin D-deficient. It appears that the sicker they were, the lower their vitamin D. However, it is uncertain whether it is just an association, or whether vitamin D deficiency itself contributes to disease severity."

Results of the study were published as a letter in the April 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body manufactures after exposure to sunlight, according to the U.S. government's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Those that do include fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, cheese, egg yolks and some mushrooms. Vitamin D is also found in fortified milk and cereals.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 200 international units (IU) for adults under 50; 400 IUs for adults between 51 and 70, and 600 IUs for those 71 and older, according to the ODS. However, some experts believe these recommendations are too low, as vitamin D deficiency is increasingly being linked to adverse health outcomes.

Lee said that vitamin D is involved in controlling blood sugar levels, calcium levels, heart function, gastrointestinal health, defending against infection and more.

In the latest study, the researchers measured vitamin D levels in 42 people being treated in an intensive care unit. Almost half were vitamin D-deficient.

Three patients died during the study, and the researchers found that they had the lowest levels of vitamin D in the study group.

Lee said the researchers don't know the exact cause of the vitamin D deficiency. A lack of sun exposure could play a role, as could a lack of dietary intake of vitamin D. But, Lee said, "it may be postulated that the tissue demand for vitamin D is increased during infection, metabolic disturbances and inflammation. Vitamin D may therefore be used up during critical illness. However, it is a hypothesis, and the relationship between vitamin D and critical illness requires further studies in the future."

Dr. David Weinstein, a nephrologist at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., agreed that more research needs to be done to tease out what the cause of the vitamin D deficiency is, and studies need to be done to see if replacing the lost vitamin D would benefit these patients.

"We know that in stable situations, vitamin D deficiency definitely has a potential link to mortality, and vitamin D replacement does improve outcomes," said Weinstein. But, he added, "from this study, it's too early to tell if there would be a mortality benefit from vitamin D replacement." And for immobile patients, there's a risk of creating calcium levels that are too high, he added.

In the current study, 10 patients were given vitamin D supplements, and no protective effect was found.

Dr. Kirit Tolia, chief of endocrinology at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich., said his sense is that replacing vitamin D in such critically ill patients may be too late. "If you go into illness with a significant vitamin D deficiency, it makes whatever the underlying cause of the hospitalization worse," he said. For example, if someone is being treated for sepsis -- a serious infection -- if their vitamin D levels are low, it makes it harder for them to fight the infection, he explained.

Tolia added that he wasn't surprised by the findings, because he sees a lot of vitamin D deficiency, but that he was "alarmed at the severity of the deficiency and the prevalence of it."

Additionally, he said he believes that healthy adults should get about 1,000 IUs of vitamin D daily, and that those who are elderly or in poor health should get about 1,500 IUs daily. "That gives them a fair chance of maintaining vitamin D in the normal range," he said.

- Serena Gordon

More information

Learn more about vitamin D and its sources from the U.S. government's Office of Dietary Supplements.



SOURCES: Paul Lee, M.B., endocrinologist, research fellow, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia; Kirit Tolia, M.D., chief, endocrinology, Providence Hospital, Southfield, Mich.; David Weinstein, M.D., nephrologist, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich.; April 30, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine

Last Updated: April 29, 2009

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