Vitamin D is well on the way to gaining a super-vitamin status. Commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is not like other vitamins because the body can manufacture it when the skin is exposed to sunlight. In fact more of the body's vitamin D is manufactured in the body than is obtained from food. The amount of vitamin D that the body makes can vary based on factors such as skin type, age, the weather, altitude, use of sunblock and the amount of pollution in the air. Generally, being older, having darker skin, being at a lower altitude and living in air that is polluted lowers production of vitamin D. In the past five years the number of research papers published about Vitamin D in peer reviewed journals has tripled. Deficiency of vitamin D leads to rickets and developed countries such as the UK and USA are now seeing a return of the childhood rickets that had been eradicated. Vitamin D deficiency does not only affect bone health and here we report on three of the latest studies that show the relationship between vitamin D levels and Alzheimer's disease, Vitiligo and child bone health.
1. Slowing Progression of Alzheimer's disease
A study carried out by a Spanish group assessed the effect of vitamin d supplements on Alzheimer's disease. The group analysed the information from the medical records of patients who had been diagnosed with mild Alzheimer's disease at least four years previously and charted which patients had progressed to moderate Alzheimer's or the most severe form. Results showed that the patients who did not take Vitamin D progressed to severe Alzheimer's disease more quickly than those that did. The group concludes that vitamin D supplementation may offer some protection against Alzheimer's disease.
The cause of the skin problem, vitiligo, is actually unknown and hypotheses include auto-immune disease, viral infection and neural or genetic causes. The main symptom is the appearance of white or pale patches of skin where the body has stopped producing skin pigmentation. Previous studies have not shown a clear relationship between vitamin D levels and vitiligo however a recent study has shown that patients with vitiligo have lower vitamin D levels than a control group.
3. Bone health in infants
A large study that looked back over the medical reports of over a thousand children aged between 1 and 3 years, has assessed the effects of vitamin D supplements on bone health. The children's records were split into three groups, those that had taken vitamin D supplements, those that had taken a multivitamin that included vitamin D, and those that received no vitamin D supplements. Results showed that the children who did not receive any vitamin D supplements had vitamin D deficiency and low levels of calcium and phosphorus. Results also showed that vitamin D levels were not affected by the seasons.
1. Chaves et al. Treatment with vitamin D and slowing the progression to severe stage of Alzheimer's disease. Bertex. Apr 2014.
2. Bahesti et al. Assessment of vitamin d plasma levels in patients with vitiligo vulgaris. Acta Med Iran Aug 2014.
3. Torun et al. Vitamin D containing supplements for children between 1-3 years of age: Are they essential for bone health? J. Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. Aug 2014.