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Millions Deficient In Vital Vitamin D Risk Factor For Diabetes

Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2004

undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined Millions of Britons are deficient in a vitamin that protects against a host of diseases including rickets, diabetes and cancer. Experts called for urgent action to raise vitamin D levels, particularly among pregnant women, young children, and people with dark skin.

They suggested that one remedy might be widening vitamin D fortification of food, possibly to include bread and milk. At present only breakfast cereals and margarines are fortified with vitamin D in the UK.

The experts also recommended taking vitamin D supplements such as cod liver oil capsules.

About 80% of the vitamin obtained in the body is synthesized through the conversion of chemicals in the skin by sunlight.

Professor Graham Bentham, from the University of East Anglia, said: “During winter months we rely on what we have stored in our body from summer exposure and what we get from diet.” Although oily fish and egg yolk are good sources of the vitamin, it is not abundant in many foods.

Today it is clear that vitamin D deficiency was associated with a wide range of diseases, and that the vitamin was needed in higher doses than previously thought. There was evidence that the vitamin protected against breast, prostate ovarian and colon cancer, and had a major impact on diabetes. It also reduced tissue damage caused by certain infections such as tuberculosis, leprosy and gum disease, as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Diabetes expert Dr Barbara Boucher, from St Bartholomew’s and the London Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, said vitamin D was needed for insulin to be released effectively.

Worldwide there had been an “explosion” of Type 2 diabetes, which was four times greater in black and Asian people living in the West. People with dark skins were less able to manufacture their own source of vitamin D from the sun. Rates of insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes were also rising “like mad”, said Dr Boucher.

Three different studies had shown that vitamin D supplements given to breastfeeding mothers and young children reduced the incidence of Type 1 diabetes by 60% between birth and the age of 30.

Professor Brian Wharton, from the Institute of Child Health in London, said “there’s certainly no doubt that if you wear sunscreen vitamin D conversion goes down. “Indoor activities, such as working out in the gym or sitting at computers all day, might contribute to vitamin D deficiency,” she said. Lack of exercise could also be involved, since fat acted as a “sink” which soaked up and stored vitamin D.

In the United States milk was fortified with the vitamin, but not sufficiently. New studies had looked at the possibility of fortifying orange juice and bread.

Professor Bentham suggested that everyone should be taking about 12.5 micrograms of the vitamin. Dr Boucher thought the right level was more than 5 micrograms and less than 25.

She said: “The one message that should come out of all this if you want to reduce the burden of chronic disease in years to come is that no-one should be short of vitamin D.”


Source:  Diabetes In

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