ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Bone Density Predicts Chances of Breast Cancer
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
CANCER
Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk
Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon, Breast Cancers
Immune Therapy May Aid Kids With Neuroblastoma
CAREGIVING
What Moms Learned May Be Passed to Offspring
Flu Strikes a Milder Blow This Season
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
DIET, NUTRITION
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
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
Pregnant Rural Women More at Risk
Artificial Light Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
FITNESS
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Biomarkers May Help Measure Rate of Decline in Dementia
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise Eases Obesity and Anger in Kids
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Optimism May Boost Immune System
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
SENIORS
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Add your Article

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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