Three quarters of Hip Fracture Patients Deficient in vitamin D

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing

The International Osteoporosis Foundation reported last week on an Indian study that could prove to be a useful index for the assessment of hip fracture risk in elderly people.

There has been much in the press recently about a recent report from the US Institute of Medicine which found that most people in the U.S. and Canada do not need vitamin D supplements as they are getting enough from their diets. Previous research has shown that low vitamin D levels increase the risk of cancer and heart disease and strokes, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, auto-immune diseases, infections and depression, and to play a role in muscle strength and multiple sclerosis. Studies have suggested many Americans don’t get enough vitamin D because they spend long periods indoors and wear sunscreen when outside which prevents vitamin D being absorbed.

This study from New Delhi India has revealed high rates of vitamin D deficiency among hip fracture patients, confirming the conclusions of similar international studies which point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for hip fracture. It may be that Indians in general have low levels due to skin pigmentation, traditional clothing and the avoidance of sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to development.

The US study recommended amount is 600 international units of vitamin D daily and good food sources are oily fish and eggs but the main source is from sunlight on the skin.

Vitamin D Supplements Can Help Reduce Heart Disease Risk

March 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Health


There is an ongoing and endless argument in the medical world about whether nutritional supplements have any real value in the west so it’s good to hear good news for once. It was reported at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session in Atlanta, Georgia this month that treating Vitamin D deficiency can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin D is certainly recommended to reduce bone disease and fractures, but this is the first time it has been suggested to treat heart disease. Two new studies undertaken at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah last year have claimed that preventing and treating heart disease in some patients could be as simple as supplementing their diet with extra vitamin D. Doctors recommending supplements, what is the world coming to?!

Researchers demonstrated a clear link between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk for coronary artery disease in studies lasting over a year each and involving over 40,000 patients with low vitamin D levels. In the first study they found that 47 percent of the patients who increased their levels of vitamin D between the two visits showed a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. The second study was even more impressive as patients who increased their vitamin D levels to 43 nanograms per milliliter of blood or higher had lower rates of death, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure, high blood pressure, depression, and kidney failure.

While exposure to 20-30 minutes of sunlight can provide up to 10,000 IU, of vitamin D you need to be sure to use sunscreen and avoid the hottest parts of the day in order to avoid sunburn and the harmful UV rays associated with skin cancer. Supplements can help boost your levels all year round and although the current RDA Recommended Daily Allowance) for vitamin D is around 400 IU for adults, 1000 IU for babies up to 2 years and between 500 – 1000 for older children the doctors taking part in the two studies feel that the ‘normal’ levels are too low.

They suggested increasing vitamin D intake by 1000 to 5000 international units (IU) a day, depending on a patient’s health and genetic risk for coronary disease. However an excess of vitamin D can cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness and weight loss so always check with your doctor before exceeding the RDA and have a blood test to accurately determine the levels in your blood.

Successful dieting depends on vitamin D

July 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Fitness & Sport, Vitamins & Supplements


The Endocrine Society reported at their AGM of 12 June that if you are planning on a low calorie diet to get in shape for those summer clothes then you need to have good levels of vitamin D in your body at the start if you want it to succeed.

The study was reported on from a study at the University of Minnesota and although we associate Vitamin D deficiency with obesity, it’s never been clear as to whether low levels of vitamin D causes obesity or the other way around. The study put their test subjects on a diet that provided 750 calories a day less than they actually felt they needed. Most of their people had low levels of vitamin D at the start, but surprisingly even low levels were able to predict how successful the diet would be. The more vitamin D in their blood, then the greater the weight loss – and vice versa.

Probably of more interest before you shimmy into that swimsuit is the fact that higher baseline levels of vitamin D levels also predicted there would be a greater loss of fat from the abdomen – the prime target for most dieters.

Just taking vitamin D as a supplement won’t help you lose weight on its own. Sadly the same advice applies as usual – eat less, exercise more and focus on healthy foods rather than saturated fats and alcohol. Liqueur chocolates are probably the worst combination, so wait until Christmas!

Health benefits of Dandelions

June 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Natural Medicine


As summer appears to have suddenly burst upon us, you may soon be wrestling with that common misplaced flower – the dandelion. It may be a weed to you, but it can have some useful health benefits so save a corner of the garden for it and you might be surprised at how useful it can be.

It contains a host of good ingredients such as vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, and the minerals iron, potassium, and zinc and has been used across the world. Native Americans used dandelion to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. Chinese practitioners traditionally used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.

Today, dandelion roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, to improve upset stomach, flatulence, and constipation. Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney and so is used for poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Research also suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

How to use it:

** Dandelion tea has been used for many years to treat colds, diabetes, tuberculosis, rheumatism, and arthritis. You can get it ready made at a herbalist or health shop, but if you are making your own only pick tender, young leaves. Leave them any longer and they will taste very bitter.

** To use it as a diuretic, simmer two ounces of the sliced root in two pints of water. Boil it down to one pint. Drink half of a glass two or three times a day.

** To make a dandelion coffee to help you sleep, and solve your digestive problems, you need to roast the roots until they’re brown and hard. Grind into a power and treat like an instant coffee (but without the caffeine).

** An ‘old wives’ remedy for warts was to squeeze the stems of dandelions until the white milky substance inside comes out. Put this liquid onto the wart, let it dry and don’t wash off. Reapply when you can no longer see it on the skin and in three days it should have dried the wart so that turns black, and drops off. No need to wear a pointy hat and have a black cat, unless of course you want to.

Plants contain powerful substances and are not to be taken lightly. Dandelion is generally considered safe but it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to even the most natural substance. If you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn and it may also irritate the skin if applied directly to it. If you have gallbladder problems and gallstones then best to avoid this should consult a health care provider before eating dandelion.
Because of it’s diuretic effect, dandelion may increase the excretion of drugs from the body and if you taking any of the following drugs check with your doctor first: Lithium, Antibiotics, Antacids and other medicines that lower stomach acid, such as Zantac.

The ‘wrong’ kind of sunlight

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under At Home, Health


Frankly after the wind and rain I was battered with at the weekend any kind of sunshine would be welcome, but just like there is the ‘wrong’ kind of snow, there can also apparently be the ‘wrong’ kind of sun.The problem is if you are getting your sun through a window, as this way your vitamin D levels can be reduced. Let the sun shine – but not through your window if you want to get the full benefit. There are two basic forms of ultraviolet radiation from the sun: UVA, and UVB and they work differently when your body is exposed to them.

UVB is the ‘good’ guy as it forms the precursor to vitamin D in the skin, but sadly it is also the ‘bad’ guy that when overexposed leads to sunburn and skin damage but we are generally exposed to it mostly in the summer time. UVA is not so much a ‘bad guy’ as an out and out villain, giving your skin the appearance of an alligator handbag and causing skin cancer and is present throughout the year.

This is the problem; even when the sky seems overcast, UVA rays are beaming down on you, and they can pass through glass. Although UVB radiation is filtered out as it passes through the window, UVB mostly goes right through it.

We know there are many health benefits associated with sensible exposure to sunlight, but it is the vitamin D we get from exposure to UVB that we need. If you are basking in the sun in your conservatory or even sitting by a window when the sky is cloudy you are in danger of destroying vitamin D as you are exposed to UVA radiation.

This is particularly important in the winter when we seek out light and sun to cheer us up, and we are getting very little vitamin D from UVB rays. Maximise your intake of vitamin D by avoiding sitting directly by a window in the winter and getting out at every opportunity for short, safe, exposure to the sun. Why should we care about this? Vitamin D is formed from exposure to UVB rays, whereas UVA radiation actually destroys vitamin D.

Lack of vitamin D weakens young girls’ muscles

April 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Food & Nutrition


Another reason not to neglect eggs, particularly for teenage girls, is that new research in the USA and Germany has found that having insufficient vitamin D may cause weaker muscles.

A lack of the vitamin causes problems with calcium absorption, and can lead to bone weakness, fractures and osteoporosis as well as increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disorders. Certainly it is known to impact our muscular and skeletal system and cause weakness, but what’s news it that it can also affect muscle power and force. The researchers tested their theory on nearly 100 girls between 12 and 14 at inner city schools and found that overall 75 percent of them had less than ideal levels of vitamin D, but were not showing any symptoms related to deficiency.

The girls were put through a variety of sport exercises, mainly involving jumping, and it was found that there was a direct correlation between vitamin D blood levels and the girls’ performance on the muscle strength tests. Recent studies suggest that as many as 55 percent of apparently healthy U.S. adolescents might be vitamin D deficient and so it would be worth making sure that girls include the best sources every day such as oily fish, eggs and fortified foods like breakfast cereals and powdered milk. Plus that basic, free source good old fashioned sunlight.

New Vitamin D treatment for Psoriasis

February 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies


Psoriasis is a skin condition that can bring not just physical, but emotional and social challenges for sufferers. News is just in of new topical treatments that are about to become available in the USA for psoriasis. Of the new options, one is a calcitriol ointment and one is a Hydrogel Patch, but this has only limited availability. What is really exciting is the calcitriol option that was presented by the vice chairman of dermatology at the University of California at a recent Skin Disease Education Foundation Dermatology Seminar in Hawaii.

Calcitriol is a vitamin D ointment that was approved by the FDA earlier this month and will be on general sale in pharmacies within two months. It has been shown to be successful in treating moderate to severe psoriasis of the scalp, when applied twice daily over a period of eight weeks. When extended to use twice daily for a year, there was a good improvement in 64% of patients.

Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s link confirmed


Cambridge University and the University of Michigan, have for the first time identified a relationship between Vitamin D and cognitive impairment in a large-scale study of older people. In northern climates there can be a lack of vitamin D, particularly in the winter months, when we suffer from grey skies and not enough sunshine.

Vitamin D is vital to our immune system and to keep our bones strong in the process of breaking down old bone and building up new bone. This process goes on throughout out lives, but it can slow down without the right levels of vitamin and mineral support. We obtain our supply from sunlight, foods fortified with vitamin D like cow’s milk, soya milk and cereals and oily fish. Unfortunately, as we get older we are less able to absorb vitamin D from sunlight so need to increase our intake from other sources or take supplements.

This new study is important because it reinforces the connection between vitamin D, cognitive function and dementia as in Alzheimer’s. The researchers assessed cognitive function in 2000 adults aged 65 and over in England, and what they found was that as levels of Vitamin D went down, their levels of cognitive impairment went up. In fact they had double the chance of being cognitively impaired than those in the study who had good levels of vitamin D.

As prevention is infinitely better than cure – which, sadly, in the case of Alzheimer’s is still being sought – it makes sense to do all you can to weigh the odds in your favour. Keep mentally alert with quizzes, crosswords or bridge. Take up a new hobby that stretches your brain (line or sequence dancing works well for this) and think about learning a new language or skill. Book a holiday in the sun in the winter and sensibly enjoy exposure to sunlight as often as you can. Supplements are easy to obtain, but there are cautions with them so don’t exceed the dose recommended by your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.

Vitamin D reduces fall risk in older women

Australia is a country with no shortage of sunshine, but even there in the winter months there may not be enough to keep the body adequately supplied so you can imagine that the situation is even more pronounced in more northern climes. Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D, and one very specific element of that – Vitamin D2 – appeared to reduce the risk of falls, especially during the winter months. This is important news for women at high-risk, such as those with osteoporosis, and the simplest advice is to get as much natural sunlight as you possibly can, and make sure you have adequate amounts of calcium in your diet as that helps vitamin D to be best utilized by the body.

Approximately one-third of women over 65 fall each year, and if a woman has a vitamin D deficiency then she is at greater risk of fracture. Those women given a vitamin D2 and calcium supplement in a trial at the University of Western Australia had a 19% lower risk of falls compared with patients given calcium alone. The trial studied 300 women over the age of 70 living in Perth, Australia who had a history of falling in the previous year. Older people who fall frequently do tend to have more risk factors for falling, including greater degrees of disability and poorer levels of physical function, so supplementing with D2 is only one factor to be considered. Taking any one vitamin in isolation can cause problems so before you decide to supplement please talk first to a qualified nutritionist, or treat yourself to a couple of weeks in the sun during the darkest days of winter. If you can’t get away, then take advantage if every ray of sunshine you can find and get outdoors as often as possible.

Natural help for gum disease

December 20, 2007 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Natural Medicine, Wellness

Noticed your gums are inflamed and tender or bleed slightly when brushing your teeth? These, together with receding gums, chronic bad breath and loose teeth or widening space between gums and teeth are symptoms of gum disease.

Gum disease starts with plaque on the teeth which is formed when bacteria in the mouth mixes with saliva and residues from starchy foods and sugar in your diet. If you don’t remove it properly then it accumulates and hardens underneath the gumline into tartar. That is much more difficult to remove than everyday plaque and will mean a visit to the dentist. If you have bleeding from the gums with pain, called periodontitis, then that is a sign that the infection and inflammation has spread to the deeper tissues and bone. After the age of 30, periodontitis is responsible for more tooth loss than cavities. Brushing your teeth after every meal, and especially after eating anything containing sugar, is a good preventive programme but there is also natural help on hand.

Vitamin C
The link between vitamin C deficiency and gum disease is well known and is one of the reasons that back in the 18th century, sailors ate limes during long trips at sea to keep their gums from bleeding. It probably helped the taste of the rum as well. There is research showing a link between low intake of vitamin C and higher rates of gum disease, particularly gingivitis, so make sure you have a minimum of 250mg a day and eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as grapefruit, oranges, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, strawberry, red pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe melon. If you are taking supplements, don’t get the chewable vitamin C because the acidity may promote the erosion of tooth enamel over time.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce susceptibility to gum disease, again research by Boston University shows a link between low levels of vitamin D and gingivitis. Being out in sunlight is one of the best ways to boost levels of this vitamin so get out into the sun wherever you can and no need for sun block at this time of year, unless of course you are off to the Caribbean for the winter.

Stress reduction
Of course stress affects virtually every aspect of your health and wellbeing, but in this context it contributes to gum disease by increasing plaque accumulation. A University of Dusseldorf study examined how exam stress would impact plaque and gum bleeding. All students had a professional tooth cleaning 4 weeks prior to exams and then 4 weeks after exams. They found that students had significantly higher rates of plaque and gingivitis after their exams compared to a control group of students that didn’t take exams. I suspect they didn’t take into account the fact that under stress our diets also lean heavily on sugar and chocolate which also increases plaque.

Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has so many uses it’s invaluable in my natural first aid box and as it has proven antibiotic properties it can help reduce gingivitis and bleeding, but it won’t reduce the amount of plaque. You must NOT use neat tea tree oil in the mouth or anywhere else. You can get tea tree toothpaste from a health store or you can put one drop in a cup of warm water and rinse it round your gums. DO NOT SWALLOW but spit it out immediately and I suggest you don’t eat or drink for at least 15 minutes as it tastes pretty grim.