ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Stem Cells Might Treat Tough Fractures
Living Near Major Road May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
CANCER
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
Hospital Volume Imperfect Gauge of Cancer Surgery Outcomes
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
The Raw Food Diet
Myrrh May Lower High Cholesterol
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth
Pesticides Linked to Parkinson's
EYE CARE, VISION
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
Action-Filled Video Games Boost Adult Vision
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Barefoot Best for Running?
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Autumn Chores Often Hazardous
The Brain Comes Alive With the Sounds of Music
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
MEN'S HEALTH
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Drink Away Dementia?
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
SENIORS
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
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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