Higher Vitamin D levels linked to slower progression of Multiple Sclerosis

Patients with high vitamin D levels in the year after the first onset of multiple sclerosis demonstrated, over the next 4 years, much lower levels of MS disease and disability progression than those patients with lower levels of the vitamin. This was the conclusion of Harvard School of Public Health researchers who were following various treatment options for multiple sclerosis in a multi-year study.

The investigation, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Neurology, elicited many comments from healthcare practitioners, mostly in support of adopting Vitamin D supplementation strategies for MS patients. (The research reported in JAMA Neurology did not involve supplementation, only looked at the association between various Vitamin D levels and disease progression.) Here’s one comment, from Marian Evatt, MD:

“This doesn’t surprise me — because of available data on MS and bone health, I’ve been trying to keep MS (and other neurology) patients at 30 ng/mL for a while. So this study won’t change what I do for MS patients. That said, I don’t know how well these kinds of findings have gotten out to the general practice community, so this adds to the body of evidence to support general neurologists and primary care physicians paying attention to vitamin D levels in patients with newly diagnosed MS. Compared with many of my neurology colleagues, I am relatively aggressive about keeping 25OH vitamin D levels replete because there’s plenty of evidence vitamin D interventions work for bone health and fall prevention (issues MS and other neurology patients commonly have).”

From: MedPage Neurology Friday Feedback: Vitamin D — the MS Magic Bullet? Published: Jan 24, 2014

Reference: Ascherio A, et al Vitamin D as an early predictor of multiple sclerosis activity and progression. JAMA Neurol 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.5993.

Taking Vitamin D3 supplements for more than 3 years linked to lower mortality

We’ve heard a lot about Vitamin D in the past few years. There have been studies linking low Vitamin D levels to a host of health issues, from heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, to higher probability of developing the flu, especially during the winter season, when you get less exposure to the sunshine that allows the body to produce its own supply of the vitamin.

Now here’s an interesting meta-analysis (=review of previously published research) that looks at the connection between long-term use of Vitamin D3 supplements (“long-term” defined, in this case, as more than three years). Reviewing data from 42 earlier trials, this investigation found that those who supplemented with Vitamin D for longer than three years had a significant reduction in mortality. Specifically, this research found that the following groups showed a lower risk of death when supplementing with Vitamin D over a period longer than three years: women, people under the age of 80, those taking a daily dose of 800IU or less of Vitamin D, and those participants with vitamin D insufficiency (defined as a baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D level less than 50 nmol/L).

Here’s the conclusion reached by the researchers:

The data suggest that supplementation of vitamin D is effective in preventing overall mortality in a long-term treatment, whereas it is not significantly effective in a treatment duration shorter than 3 years. Future studies are needed to identify the efficacy of vitamin D on specific mortality, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality in a long-term treatment duration.

Our comment: We’re not surprised that supplementing over a period of years proves, in this review, to be more beneficial than briefer periods of supplementing. Vitamin D, like many supplements, shouldn’t be seen as treatment for an acute condition. It doesn’t act like an antibiotic, which may clear up an infection with a couple weeks of treatment. Instead, think of the body as having a long-term, continual need for Vitamin D; and note as well that seasonal change, or a particular health status (for example, being HIV+), may lead to deficiency and thus increase your need for supplementing. We were somewhat surprised to see that a significantly lowered risk of mortality was found even with a moderate rate of supplementation (800 IU daily dose). On this Blog you can read about other research that links decreased risk of flu, for example, with a daily Vitamin D dose of 2000IU. At any rate, there are no known “adverse events” at either of these doses of the vitamin, so not to worry, whether you’re following the lower or a higher recommendation.

See the NYBC catalog for Vitamin D3 offerings:

http://nybcsecure.org/index.php?cPath=25

Reference:
Zheng Y, et al. Meta-analysis of long-term vitamin D supplementation on overall mortality. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 3;8(12):e82109. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082109.

Who’s Afraid of Cold and Flu Season? Not NYBC!

As the days get shorter and we approach the end of October, here in the Northern Hemisphere many worry about the Cold and Flu Season. Colds and flus aren’t fun for anyone, and people with compromised immune systems may be especially vulnerable. Here are some recommendations from NYBC, both in the prevention department and in the symptom alleviation department. Using these supplements, we believe, can make the Cold and Flu Season a lot less scary!

Vitamin D. According to some recent thinking, the “cold and flu season” may actually be the “Vitamin D deficiency season.” As the days grow shorter, people get less sunshine, leading to a decline in the body’s levels of this vitamin, which is essential to good health in many more ways than we used to think. Taking Vitamin D during the winter may therefore be one of the most effective ways to prevent colds and flu. Many researchers who’ve studied Vitamin D now recommend at least 2000 IU/day, but those with a known deficiency may be advised to supplement at even higher levels. There’s a simple test available to check for Vitamin D deficiency – ask your doctor.

Cold Away. This blend of Chinese herbs from Health Concerns is designed to “clear external heat and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.” A key component of this formula is the herb andrographis, which in several recent US studies was found to significantly decrease cold symptoms and the duration of a cold; it may also be useful for prevention. (NYBC stocks over 20 varieties of Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, by the way.)

Vitamin C. Many good studies have shown a decrease in cold symptom duration, but no benefit for prevention. According to a guide to natural products published by the American Pharmacists’ Association in 2006, taking between one and three grams of Vitamin C per day may decrease cold symptoms (sore throat, fatigue, runny nose) by one to 1½ days.*

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supports respiratory and immune system function. It has been studied extensively for chronic bronchitis. NAC is also the antidote for acetaminophen poisoning, now the leading cause of liver disease in the US. (Acetaminophen’s best-known tradename is Tylenol®, but it’s also found in many other drugs, so it’s become all too easy to overdose–especially when you’re fighting cold or flu symptoms.)

One popular way to take NAC is to use PharmaNAC, notable for its careful quality control, pleasant “wildberry” flavor, and effervescent fizz!

Botanicals. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus is used for chronic respiratory infections, for colds and flu (both prevention and treatment) and for stress and fatigue. It contains complex sugar molecules called polysaccharides, which some studies show stimulate virus-fighting cells in the immune system. Researchers at the University of Texas and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have turned up evidence that astragalus boosts immune responses in lab animals, and in human cells in lab dishes.

Probiotics. They say the best defense is a good offense, so consider upping your intake of the beneficial bacteria found naturally in such things as kefir (the lightly fermented milk beverage) and yogurt: they boost the flora in your intestinal tract, which is where an estimated 80% your immune system resides. Also note that NYBC stocks several varieties of probiotic supplements, including Jarrow’s Ultra Jarro-Dophilus, which has helped many maintain healthy digestive function, always a key to getting proper nutrition into your system and thus supporting immune strength.

And this just in: See posts on this blog for Beta Glucan, which, according to very recent research reports, may be of substantial benefit for fighting colds.

*Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Health Care Professionals, ed. Karen Shapiro. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists’ Assoc. (2006), “Cold and Flu,” pp. 173-192.

Vitamin D may lower blood pressure in African-Americans

A trial published in the journal Hypertension (Feb 3, 2013) found that Vitamin D supplementation can lower blood pressure in African-Americans, who are at greater risk for high blood pressure than the general population.

In the research study, participants received a placebo, or 1000, or 2000, or 4000 IUs of Vitamin D3 a day for three months. There was no significant change for those taking the placebo. Those who took the highest amount of Vitamin D daily showed the greatest reduction in blood pressure. “This degree of blood pressure reduction, if confirmed in future studies, would be considered clinically significant,” said the lead author, Dr. John P. Forman. (Quoted in NYT online, where we first read of this story.)

NYBC stocks Vitamin D in several different strengths:

http://nybcsecure.org/index.php?cPath=25

Vitamin D is a low-cost supplement, and is reported to have no adverse effects in daily doses as high as 4000IU. Search under Vitamin D for previous posts on this blog about the vitamin’s potential for cardiovascular health benefits, especially for African-Americans and other groups at elevated risk.

Supplements for Bone Health: A Special Note for People with HIV

Bone health has been a growing concern for people with HIV, since studies have indicated that HIVers experience higher than expected rates of osteopenia (bone mineral density lower than normal) and osteoporosis (bone mineral density very low, with heightened risk of fractures). A 2012 review from Johns Hopkins researchers, for example, concluded that the “increasing prevalence of osteoporosis in HIV-infected persons translates into a higher risk of fracture, likely leading to excess morbidity and mortality as the HIV-infected population ages.”

The Johns Hopkins study urged more attention to Vitamin D deficiency and supplementation as one way to counter these HIV-related bone issues. But we think it’s also worth looking at recent Canadian research, not focused especially on people with HIV, but with some striking findings about the value of multiple supplements to support healthy bone mineral density levels. The supplements investigated included vitamin D(3), vitamin K(2), strontium, magnesium and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), all chosen because of previous evidence about their benefit to bone health. Following a year-long study of patients with varying levels of bone loss, the Canadian researchers determined that this supplement regimen was as effective as a class of drugs often prescribed for osteoporosis (bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax or Boniva). And, they found that the combination of supplements was even effective for people who had failed to benefit from the prescription osteoporosis drugs.

We hope to see further study of supplement combinations for bone loss in people with HIV. It’s an acknowledged problem as HIVers get older, and if there’s a potential way to lower this health risk over the long run, let’s take a serious look at it!

Note: NYBC stocks Jarrow’s Bone Up or Ultra Bone Up, plus Max DHA or EPA-DHA Balance, which provide most of the micronutrients in the Canadian study (missing is the Strontium, but NYBC hopes to have a recommendation for that in the near future).

Visit the NYBC website for more information:

http://www.newyorkbuyersclub.org/

References:

The Johns Hopkins study: Walker Harris V, Brown TT. Bone loss in the HIV-infected patient: evidence, clinical implications, and treatment strategies. J Infect Dis. 2012 Jun;205 Suppl 3:S391-8. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jis199.

The Canadian study: Genuis SJ, Bouchard TP. Combination of Micronutrients for Bone (COMB) Study: bone density after micronutrient intervention. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:354151. doi: 10.1155/2012/354151.

Media Distortions, as usual…

The news says: Elderly ladies, stop the Ca+D. The title here, for example:
USPSTF Says No to Vitamin D, Calcium for Older Women

The panel said something a bit different–don’t waste your time if the DOSE IS TOO LOW. Will have to get the original article. But it seems to be a tiresome misrepresentation of the data. At least, for those who read the article, they do note first —

“400 IU of vitamin D3 combined with 1,000 mg of calcium carbonate has no effect” BUT then —

“daily intake of 600 IU for vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium for women ages 51 to 70 had a clearer net benefit in fracture prevention.

Last month, the USPSTF finding that vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of falls in community-dwelling older people who may be prone to falling.”

Acquiring enough calcium from a healthy diet, getting enough sun and resistance exercise are all the BASIC elements of sustaining good bone health. Supplements have their place for many people. But the media distortions do not help people to make the best decision, especially when they outright distort the recommendation. And indeed many, many people are very low in Vitamin D–as we have discussed frequently here!

 

Vitamin D and racial disparity in blood pressure

An article published in 2011 suggested that low Vitamin D levels may contribute to higher rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) among African Americans. Higher rates of hypertension in turn produce higher rates of cardiovascular disease and its related mortality. The article examined existing data on blood pressure and detected a significant link between lower levels of Vitamin D and higher risk of hypertension in African Americans. The authors note that Vitamin D level did not emerge as the sole factor explaining racial disparity in blood pressure (other factors include lack of access to healthcare, diet, and stress). They also call for trials to determine if supplementation can impact high blood pressure risk.

Read the article: Racial disparity in blood pressure: is vitamin D a factor?

See further information about Vitamin D and cardiovascular health on this Blog, or in the NYBC entries under Vitamin D3 at
http://nybcsecure.org/index.php?cPath=25&sort=3a&page=2