ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
More Faces Being Spared in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Fractures in Older Adults Up Death Risk
CANCER
Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon, Breast Cancers
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
CAREGIVING
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
Study Links Pesticides to Birth Defects
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Holistic Dentistry-My View
DIABETES
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
DIET, NUTRITION
Coffee or Tea Consumption May Lower Stroke Risk
Coffee Drinkers Might Live Longer
Holiday Eating Without the Guilt -- or the Pounds
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
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
EYE CARE, VISION
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Protein Might One Day Prevent Blindness
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
FITNESS
FDA Mandates New Warnings for Botox
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
'Organic' May Not Mean Healthier
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
U.S. Prepares for Possible Return of Swine Flu in Fall
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Omega-3, Some Omega-6 Fatty Acids Boost Cardiovascular Health
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Play Creatively as a Kid, Be a Healthier Adult
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
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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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