Practical World is theTrue News (only) Magazine

Practical World is theTrue News (only) Magazine
Practical World is theTrue News (only) Magazine

Health : How vitamin D protects against heart failure and other serious diseases

Vitamin D, which is often called the "sunshine vitamin," boasts a range of physiological roles. A new study reveals that, following a heart attack, it might protect against consequent heart failure.
    



Few foods contain vitamin D. Instead, the vast majority is synthesized in our skin following exposure to the sun.

During a study of rickets in children, vitamin D was initially identified as an important player in bone health. We now know that vitamin D has an array of duties in the body beyond that of bone health.

For instance, vitamin D is thought to impact the workings of muscles and blood vessels. And, even more recently, evidence has been gathering that the vitamin might have a protective effect on heart health. Specifically, studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to coronary artery disease and heart failure.
Vitamin D and heart failure.



Heart failure is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, wherein the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood and oxygen to nourish the tissues of the body. In 2009, around 1 in 9 deaths in the United States "included heart failure as contributing cause."

And because heart failure is so common, understanding exactly what is involved physiologically is important. Due to the recent evidence that vitamin D might protect against heart failure, scientists are keen to get a clearer understanding of the relationship.

Although the benefits of vitamin D for heart health are becoming well-established, the mechanisms at work are not understood. Recently, a team of researchers from Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia decided to take a closer look.

Lead researcher Prof. James Chong said:

"The benefits of vitamin D are becoming increasingly known, but we still don't fully understand how, mechanistically, it can help with heart disease management. We wanted to know more about how vitamin D protects the heart after a heart attack."

Westmead Institute's researchers Dr. Loan Le and Associate Professor James Chong


To dig into this problem, the scientists used a mouse model and a form of vitamin D called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D), which "interacts with hormones." They wanted to understand how 1,25D affected an important set of heart cells.

The cells of interest to the team are known as cardiac colony-forming unit fibroblasts (cCFU-Fs), and they are responsible for forming scar tissue following a heart attack.

Getting an edge on heart failure


A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is stopped. And, because no oxygen is reaching sections of the tissue, they become damaged, which triggers inflammation in the region. In the inflamed tissue, cCFU-Fs begin to replace damaged cells with "collagen-based scar tissue."

As Chong explains, "This is a problem because scarring of heart tissue can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, which can lead to heart failure."

The team found that vitamin D was able to block the action of cCFU-Fs, thereby preventing the buildup of scar tissue and potentially stopping a blockage from developing.

Their results are published this week in the journal Heart Lung and Circulation.

On the importance of the results, Chong explains, "Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and heart failure, are the leading cause of death worldwide."

"To change this, we need to research heart conditions from every possible angle. This study is the first to demonstrate the role of 1,25D in regulating cardiac progenitor cells, and the findings are encouraging. With further study, vitamin D could prove to be an exciting, low-cost addition to current treatments, and we hope to progress these findings into clinical trials for humans."

So, although research into vitamin D and its cardioprotective powers is in its infancy, the results are encouraging. Finding any intervention that improves the chances of battling heart disease is good news, and finding one that is readily available is an added bonus.

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Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced by the body as a response to sun exposure; it can also be consumed in food or supplements.

Having enough vitamin D is important for a number of reasons, including maintaining healthy bones and teeth; it may also protect against a range of conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D has multiple roles in the body, helping to:

  1. Maintain the health of bones and teeth.
  2. Support the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system.
  3. Regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management.
  4. Support lung function and cardiovascular health.
  5. Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development.


What is vitamin D?



Despite the name, vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone and not actually a vitamin.

Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be created by the body and therefore must be taken in through our diet.

However, vitamin D can be synthesized by our body when sunlight hits our skin.

It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter.

Recent studies have suggested that a substantial percentage of the global population is vitamin D deficient.

Health benefits of vitamin D


This section looks at the potential health benefits of vitamin D, from assisting good bone health to possible cancer prevention.

1) Vitamin D for healthy bones



Vitamin D plays a substantial role in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood, two factors that are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones.

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium in the intestines and to reclaim calcium that would otherwise be excreted through the kidneys.

Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, a disease characterized by a severely bow-legged appearance due to softening of the bones.

In adults, vitamin D deficiency manifests as osteomalacia (softening of the bones) or osteoporosis. Osteomalacia results in poor bone density and muscular weakness. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease among post-menopausal women and older men.

2) Reduced risk of flu


Children given 1,200 International Units of vitamin D per day for 4 months during the winter reduced their risk of influenza A infection by over 40 percent.

3) Reduced risk of diabetes


Several observational studies have shown an inverse relationship between blood concentrations of vitamin D in the body and risk of type 2 diabetes. In people with type 2 diabetes, insufficient vitamin D levels may negatively effect insulin secretion and glucose tolerance. In one particular study, infants who received 2,000 International Units per day of vitamin D had an 88 percent lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of 32.

4) Healthy infants


Children with normal blood pressure who were given 2,000 International Units (IU) per day had significantly lower arterial wall stiffness after 16 weeks compared with children who were given only 400 IU per day.

Low vitamin D status has also been associated with a higher risk and severity of atopic childhood diseases and allergic diseases, including asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema. Vitamin D may enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids, making it potentially useful as a supportive therapy for people with steroid-resistant asthma.

5) Healthy pregnancy


Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D seem to be at greater risk of developing preeclampsia and needing a cesarean section. Poor vitamin D status is associated with gestational diabetes mellitus and bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. It is also important to note that high vitamin D levels during pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of food allergy in the child during the first 2 years of life.

6) Cancer prevention


Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies have suggested that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) can reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, increasing cancer cell death, and reducing cell proliferation and metastases. Vitamin D influences more than 200 human genes, which could be impaired when we do not have enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma severity, and swine flu, however more reliable studies are needed before these associations can be proven. Many of these benefits occur through Vitamin D's positive effect on the immune system

Recommended intake of vitamin D



Vitamin D intake can be measured in two ways: in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU).

One microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D.

The recommended intakes of vitamin D throughout life were updated by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM) in 2010 and are currently set at:
Infants 0-12 months - 400 IU (10 mcg).
Children 1-18 years - 600 IU (15 mcg).
Adults to age 70 - 600 IU (15 mcg).
Adults over 70 - 800 IU (20 mcg).
Pregnant or lactating women - 600 IU (15 mcg).

Vitamin D deficiency


Although the body can create vitamin D, there are many reasons deficiency can occur. For instance, darker skin color and the use of sunscreen reduce the body's ability to absorb the ultraviolet radiation B (UVB) rays from the sun needed to produce vitamin D.

A sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 can reduce the body's ability to synthesize the vitamin by 95 percent. To start vitamin D production, the skin has to be directly exposed to sunlight, not covered by clothing.

People who live in northern latitudes or areas of high pollution, work at night and stay home during the day, or are homebound should aim to consume extra vitamin D from food sources whenever possible. Infants who are exclusively breast-fed need a vitamin D supplement, especially if they are dark-skinned or have minimal sun exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed infants receive 400 IU per day of an oral vitamin D supplement; drops made specifically for babies are available.

Although vitamin D supplements can be taken, it is best to obtain any vitamin or mineral through natural sources wherever possible.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:

  • Getting sick or infected more often.
  • Fatigue.
  • Painful bones and back.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Impaired wound healing.
  • Hair loss.
  • Muscle pain.


If Vitamin D deficiency continues for long periods of time it can result in:

  1. obesity
  1. diabetes
  1. hypertension
  1. depression
  1. fibromyalgia
  1. chronic fatigue syndrome
  1. osteoporosis
  1. neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease


Vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to the development of certain cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. 
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