ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Indigo Ointment Benefits Psoriasis Patients
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
CANCER
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
High Rate of Rehospitalizations Costing Billions
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
DIABETES
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
DIET, NUTRITION
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Milk Destroys Antioxidant Benefits in Blueberries
Successful Weight Loss Shows Unique Brain Patterns
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Used Legs and Arms Like Birds
Exhaust From Railroad Diesel Linked to Lung Ailments
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
EYE CARE, VISION
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
FITNESS
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Eating Healthy : You Can Live Longer
Heavy Alcohol Use Linked to Cancer
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
Protect Your Kids From Swine Flu While at Camp
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
SENIORS
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Add your Article

Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D

MONDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Over the course of two decades, vitamin D levels have dramatically decreased among Americans, a new study finds.

Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with rickets in children and lower bone mineral density in adults. Recent research has also linked insufficient vitamin D to cancer, heart disease, infection and poorer health overall. Optimal levels range from 30 nanograms per milliliter to 40 nanograms per milliliter, the researchers said.

"We found a marked increase in vitamin D deficiency over the past two decades," said lead researcher Dr. Adit Ginde, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. "Over three out of every four Americans now have vitamin D levels below what we believe is necessary for optimal health. African-Americans and Hispanics are at particularly high risk -- nearly all have suboptimal levels."

The report was published in the March 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

For the study, Ginde's group collected data on vitamin D levels in 18,883 people collected between 1988 and 1994, and 13,369 people collected between 2001 and 2004. All the data came from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers found that average vitamin D levels were 30 nanograms per milliliter from 1988 to 1994, but decreased to 24 nanograms per milliliter between 2001 and 2004. Moreover, vitamin D levels of less than 10 nanograms per milliliter increased from 2 percent to 6 percent over the study period. There were also fewer people with vitamin D levels of 30 nanograms per milliliter or higher (45 percent vs. 23 percent).

The greatest drops in vitamin D levels were seen among blacks, where levels of vitamin D of less than 10 nanograms per milliliter rose from 9 percent to 29 percent, and levels of more than 30 nanograms per milliliter or higher dropped from 12 percent to 3 percent, the researchers found.

"Increases in vitamin D deficiency in the population may have reduced the overall health of the population," Ginde said. "Since sunlight is the body's major source of vitamin D, increases in sunscreen, sun avoidance, and overall decreased outdoor activity, while successful in reducing skin cancers, has probably reduced vitamin D levels in the population."

Ten minutes of sunlight on exposed arms and legs two to three times per week would significantly improve vitamin D production, but must be weighed against the risk for skin cancer, Ginde noted. Vitamin D supplementation is another way to increase levels. However, current recommended doses of vitamin D supplements are outdated and inadequate, he added.

Right now, recommended levels of vitamin D supplements are 200 international units per day from birth to age 50, 400 international units (IU) per day from age 51 to 70, and 600 international units per day for adults aged 71 and older. These recommendations are primarily for improving bone health.

"Vitamin D is an important and underappreciated public health issue and may be responsible for some racial differences in health outcomes," Ginde said. "Most Americans could use more vitamin D. Higher doses of vitamin D supplementation than currently recommended, at least 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily, are likely needed to raise vitamin D levels for many people."

Another report in the same journal highlights the importance of vitamin D for bone health. In the study, Swiss researchers conclude that 400 IU of vitamin D supplements per day are associated with a reduced risk of fractures in older adults.

"Given the frequency, severity and cost of non-vertebral fractures, everyone age 65 and older should take vitamin D in a dose close to 800 IU per day," said lead researcher Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich.

To reach their conclusion, Bischoff-Ferrari and colleagues reviewed the findings of 12 clinical trials of looking at the benefits of vitamin D supplements in reducing fractures in adults aged 65 and older. In all, the trials involved 42,279 participants.

The researchers found that vitamin D supplements decreased the risk of non-vertebral fractures by 14 percent and of hip fractures by 9 percent. In trials where people were given doses of more than 400 IUs a day, fractures were reduced by 20 percent and hip fractures by 18 percent.

In addition, for people taking high doses of vitamin D, calcium supplements did not appear to have any additional protective effect against fractures, the researchers reported.

"At the higher dose, this benefit is not restricted to frail older individuals, but is also present in community-dwelling older individuals," Bischoff-Ferrari said. "In the subgroup of community-dwelling older individuals, vitamin D at the higher dose reduced non-vertebral fractures by 33 percent."

Dr. Michael F. Holick, director of the Vitamin D Laboratory at Boston University, noted that the recommended levels of vitamin D are under review and likely to be increased.

"An Institute of Medicine panel is planning to have new recommendations out by mid-2010," Holick said. "It's pretty clear that you need a minimum of 1,400 and up to 2,000 IU a day, and if you are obese, you probably need at least one and a half to two times as much, because the fat sequesters the vitamin D," he said.

Holick said people are drinking less milk and staying out of the sun, which are the main reasons for the decreasing vitamin D levels in the population.

One way to combat the problem is to increase vitamin D supplementation in foods, Holick said. New recommendations that increase vitamin D levels will let the food industry increase vitamin D levels in foods and add vitamin D to more foods, he said.

"We are in desperate need to have a marked increase in the adequate intake recommendation, and hopefully, that will be 1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day and raise the safe upper limit to at least 10,000 IUs a day," Holick said. "The plan would be to increase the amount per serving and increase the number of foods fortified with vitamin D."

More information

For more on vitamin D, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.



SOURCES: Adit Ginde, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, surgery, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine; Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, Dr.P.H., assistant professor, University of Zurich, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland; Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D., director, Vitamin D Laboratory, Boston University; March 23, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine

Last Updated: March 23, 2009

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