Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis

June 22, 2010 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide range on health conditions, including rheumatic diseases. Three European studies looked into the relationship between rheumatism and vitamin D levels as well as the effect of vitamin D supplementation.

Study  1:

An Italian study followed up 1191 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The results showed that vitamin D levels in the blood were lower in these patients compared to the normal levels of at least 50 nmol/L . Furthermore,  supplementation does not always help. Only 40% of these patients who are take vitamin D daily supplementation of 800IU or more reach the normal values. The vitamin D levels in the blood in 60% of patients are still below normal. Measures of disease activity using questionnaires show that low vitamin D levels are correlated to increased disability, decreased  mobility, and more swollen joints.

According to  Dr. L. Idolazzi of the Rheumatology Unit, University of Verona, Italy:

“We have seen in studies that vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with a range of rheumatic diseases, and our results have confirmed this using several clinically accepted measures of disease activity. What we need to see now is a range of long term studies, which examine the clinical response of patients to vitamin D supplementation.”

Study 2:

In another Italian study, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on inflammatory autoimmune diseases was investigated. In this group of 43 patients, only 29% achieved normal vitamin D levels following supplementation.

Study 3:

A third study conducted in the UK involved 90 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis or unexplained muscle pain. These patients, too, had below than normal levels of vitamin D.

About vitamin D:

Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin as it can only be synthesized by the body when exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, vitamin D is not available in sufficient amounts in the food that we eat. Although vitamin D is available through sun exposure, the risk for skin cancer than the sun rays bring has led many health experts to discourage this practice.

In recent years, there has been a big debate about the necessity of vitamin D supplementation. In many countries, including the US, milk is supplemented with vitamin D. In addition, doctors often recommend vitamin D supplementation to their patients, especially little babies who are being breastfed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine vitamin D supplementation for children and updated its guidelines on Vitamin D intake last 2008. The new guidelines increased the recommended dose from 200 IU to 400 IU per day.

Insulin production and food anticipation

April 8, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Anticipation is sometimes more fun than the actual event itself. This was shown in the case of vacations –  as well as in eating. And in the case of the latter, looking forward to a meal can actually have some physiological consequences, e.g. on the blood sugar level, for example. In a study on lab animals, researchers at Duke University observed that anticipation of a meal, either by sight or by smell, activates the parasympathetic nervous system to perform biological processes such as saliva production and increased insulin production. Increased salivation is expected to aid in the mastication and digestion of food whereas increased insulin production is in preparation of the event that glucose will be entering the bloodstream. In other words, our body anticipates what we need and prepares for it in advance. The parasympathetic nervous system therefore plays an important role in sugar metabolism.

Disruption of insulin secretion creates havoc with glucose levels in the blood and for those suffering from diabetes, can have some serious consequences. Researchers found that a certain genetic mutation can lead to ankyrin-B deficiency that impairs the parasympathetic production of insulin.

According to lead researcher Dr. Vann Bennett, professor in the departments of cell biology, biochemistry, and neurobiology at Duke University:

“We think this parasympathetic response is potentially important in type 2 diabetes. Our study showed there is a novel mutation in the gene encoding ankyrin-B, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. This happens through an impairment of the insulin secretion that is added by the parasympathetic nervous system.”

To confirm that this problem also occurs in humans, the researchers looked at genetic specimens of the American Diabetes Association’s GENNID collection from families with type 2 diabetes. They performed genotyping on 524 people with diabetes and 498 people without diabetes for comparison. They found that one of these mutations of ankyrin-B (R1788W) was associated with type 2 diabetes in about 1% of Caucasian and Hispanic individuals. You would think this is a very low percentage. However, according to Dr. Bennet

“Genomewide studies have failed to identify more than a small fraction of the genetic heritability in diabetes as well as in other complex diseases. There are estimates that only 6 percent of the heritability of type 2 diabetes has been detected, by multiple genomewide studies.”

There are still a lot of diabetes-associated genes out there that need to be identified. The gene mutation for ankyrin B deficiency seems to be relevant in 1% of patients with type 2 diabetes.

Sunny treatment for your heart

September 4, 2008 by  

It can be found in abundance in nature. It’s available in most inhabited places in the world the whole year round. And best of all, it’s for free.

I am referring to vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that can only be synthesized by the body when skin is exposed to the sun.

Vitamin D deficiency can result in many health problems including, weak bones, bad eyesight, and neurological symptoms

New research results report yet another benefit of vitamin D, this time as “heart tranquilizer.”

In laboratory studies, researchers from the University of Michigan observed in rats with cardiac hypertrophy that treatment with activated vitamin D (1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, a form called calcitriol) provides protection against heart failure. Cardiac hypertrophy is a condition wherein heart muscles grow abnormally bigger, leading to enlarged and overworked hearts. Treatments with activated vitamin D prevented overstimulation and overcontraction of heart muscles symptomatic of heart failure. In other words, vitamin D “tranquilizes” the heart.

About 5.3 million Americans have heart failure, a progressive, disabling condition in which the heart becomes enlarged as it is forced to work harder and harder, making it a challenge even to perform normal daily activities. Many people with heart disease or poorly controlled high blood pressure go on to experience a form of heart failure called congestive heart failure, in which the heart’s inability to pump blood around the body causes weakness and fluid build-up in lungs and limbs. Many people with heart failure, who tend to be older, have been found to be deficient in vitamin D.

In recent years, many people avoided exposure to sunshine for aesthetic and health reasons. In many parts of Asia, women avoid the sun because its skin-darkening effect. In European and North America, sunshine has been blamed to cause skin cancer. This led to large number of the population to be deficient in vitamin D. About one-third to one-half of US adults middle-aged and older. It also affects a lot children and adolescents.

A recent study gives the following disturbing statistics:

  • 40% of American infants do not get enough vitamin D
  • 12% of infants and young children are already deficient in vitamin D,
  • 28% are at risk for vitamin D deficiency

The sun is a source of renewable energy. It is also a source of seemingly endlss benefits endless health benefits.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.