Athletes injuries linked to low Vitamin D: Briefing 22 Sept 2013

From around the web this week:

If you have skin cancer, you are more likely to live longer:

Sun-lovers can take solace. The risk of you getting skin cancer may increase but you will be less likely to have heart disease or to die prematurely, an important new study reveals. Research based on more than four million people shows that men and women with non-melanoma skin cancer had nearly half the risk of an early death as people without the disease.

Those with skin cancer also had reduced risk of heart attacks and hip fracture, according to the study, reported in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The authors, from Copenhagen University Hospital, said that although the balance between positive and negative effects of sun exposure in the public debate currently leans towards the negative, the scientific evidence to back it is largely unclear.

Their study involved the entire Danish population aged over 40 years over a 23-year period. It involved 4.4 million men and women including 130,000 with non-melanoma skin cancer, 22,000 with cutaneous malignant melanoma, 330,856 with a heart attack, 130,000 with a hip fracture and 1.6 million people who died.

Results shows that people with non-melanoma skin cancer had a 4 per cent lower risk of suffering a heart attack, compared with people without cancer. They also had a 48 per cent lower risk of dying from any cause. Risk of hip fracture in people aged under 90 was also reduced.

PORTLAND, Oregon  — A new study by Oregon State University said chemicals in red wine and blueberries may boost your body’s immune system.

Research published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, looked at the impact of 446 different chemicals on the human immune system. OSU researchers discovered that two compounds, resveratrol found in red grapes and pterostilbene found in blueberries, when combined with Vitamin D, can boost the body’s ability to fight illness.

Researchers have long believed resveratrol might have health benefits including reducing the chance of heart disease and prolonging life. But conclusive evidence has been scant, according to a 2011 scientific review by the University of Florida.

However, the two compounds are used by plants to fight infection. In humans, the compounds appear to boost vitamin D’s ability to do its job, the OSU study said.

Study leader Dr. Adrian Gombart told the British newspaper The Telegraph that “Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out. Their synergy with vitamin D… was significant and intriguing.”

And from New Zealand:

People with darker skin are at risk of developing dangerously low levels of vitamin D after moving to New Zealand, a leading health researcher says.

Massey University lecturer Pamela von Hurst is one of New Zealand’s top authorities on vitamin D.

She says immigrants from warm climates like Africa and parts of Asia are at risk of crippling diseases if they do not get enough exposure to the sun.

“We see it especially in refugee diasporas from conflict states in Africa like Sudan and Somalia. They have literally black skin,” Dr von Hurst says.

“When they’re moving to places like New Zealand and Northern Europe they’re struggling to make enough vitamin D to stay healthy.”

Dr von Hurst says someone with dark skin may need to spend up to 10 times as long in the sun to make a healthy amount of vitamin D when compared to someone with fair skin.

A study involving 81 Auckland women of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan origin found that 84 per cent were vitamin D deficient.

Dr von Hurst puts it down to changes in lifestyle such as avoiding the sun out of fear it could damage their skin.

“We also see it in Asian populations where they are very conscious about maintaining the paleness of their skin,” she says.

Misconceptions about dark skin also do little to help sun behaviours, she says.

“We hear it all the time, ‘I don’t need to worry about getting sun because I’ve got naturally dark skin’.

“Whereas in reality, the darker your skin the more exposure you need.”

It is about achieving the balance between healthy exposure and avoiding skin damage, she says.

Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis, and causes muscle pain and weakness, Dr von Hurst says.

Mental health issues like depression and autism have also been linked to a lack of the vitamin.

In New Orleans, pro footballers’ injury rates are being conclusively linked to low vitamin D levels:

Lead author of the study, Michael K. Shindle, an orthopaedic surgeon in Berkeley Heights, N.J., said, “In addition, all players sustaining injuries that caused them to miss at least one practice or game had vitamin D levels that were significantly lower than players without muscle injury.

“Among the 18 percent of players who sustained a muscle injury in the previous season all had statistically significant lower vitamin D levels, compared with those without muscle injury. There were no other statistically significant differences between those who did and did not sustain the injuries.”

The Giants’ test group consisted of 31 white players and 58 black players. African-Americans tend to have lower vitamin D levels than whites in the general population. The mean vitamin D level in white players was 30.3 ng/mL (75 nanomols); among black players, the mean level was 20.4 ng/mL (50 nanomols). “Up to 93 percent of African-American players had abnormal vitamin D levels, compared with 31 percent of white players,” Shindle said.

Speaking first hand within my sports performance and lifestyle management program at East Jefferson General Hospital, we have checked the vitamin D status of athletes and non-athletes for many years. Our results are consistent with those reported in the Giants’ study.

Vitamin D regulates sleep patterns as well:

Researchers at the East Texas Medical Center and the University of North Carolina have discovered that vitamin D helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. They’ve found a definite link between vitamin D deficiency and the current global epidemic of sleep disorders.

Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) is one of the deepest levels of sleep. It is the level in which dreaming occurs, and its related to good memory and learning. A disruption of REM sleep or an absence of it, is one form of insomnia. Other sleep disorders include sleep apnea – which involves interrupted or obstructed breathing or snoring during the night; insomnia from hormone fluctuations such as with menstruation or menopause; restless leg syndrome; and periodic limb movement disorder, a condition where the person moves their limbs involuntarily during sleep.

The results of the clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation were published in a recent issue of the journal “Medical Hypothesis”. The researchers followed 1500 patients over a 2 year period. A consistent level of vitamin D3 was maintained in their blood over many months. This produced normal sleep in most of the participants, regardless of their type of sleep disorder, which suggests that many types of insomnia may share the same cause. During the research, the authors discovered the presence of high concentrations of vitamin D “receiving sites” or “receptors” in those areas of the brain that are related to the onset and maintenance of sleep.

And Vitamin D reduces your risk of dying early:

The Vitamin D Society wants to make the public aware of a recent meta-analysis study published in BioMed Central Public Health, reporting that men and women with higher vitamin D levels have a much lower risk of dying prematurely from all causes(1). Researchers analyzed the results from 9 prospective cohort studies which compared data on vitamin D status and mortality for 24,297 adults of varying ages. During the study period 5,324 deaths occurred. After adjusting for all the main confounders, the risk for all-cause mortality was 19% greater for those participants with the lowest vitamin D level compared to the highest. When the data was stratified by age, the study reported that the all-cause mortality risk for people with lower vitamin D levels was 12% greater for those under age 65 and 25% greater for those above 65 years of age. All results were statistically significant.

The authors reported, “As far as we are aware, this is the only systematic review and meta-analysis that has specifically investigated whether the apparent association between low vitamin D status and all-cause mortality is age-dependent. Although a significant increase in all-cause mortality was found in study participants of all ages with low compared to higher 25OHD levels, the pooled effect size was lower for studies with participants with an average age of less than 65 years compared to the studies containing older participants.”

“This study confirms that people over age 65 with low vitamin D levels have a 25% higher risk of dying prematurely from all causes,” said Perry Holman, Executive Director for the Vitamin D Society. “There is an immediate need for public health programs to promote and communicate the importance of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels of between 100-150 nmol/L to seniors.”

More next week.