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What do people who suffer from dementia, malnutrition, depression, and obesity have in common? They all need sunshine vitamin or simply Vitamin D.
In the United States alone, more than 40% of the population is vitamin D deficient. Some experts called it an ignored epidemic which affects over 1 billion people in the world today.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble sunshine vitamin which is produced in the skin upon interaction with sunlight. The compounds vitamins, D-1, D-2, and D-3 are all in the vitamin D family.
It's vital functions include regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption in the body and support the immune system in fighting diseases.
Having sufficient amount of vitamin D will result in normal growth and development of bones and teeth. It also fights depression and boosts weight loss. It reduces risks of developing multiple sclerosis, heart disease, flu, respiratory tract infections, autoimmune disease or even cancer.
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Four Vitamin D Dilemma
A study pointed to this micronutrient to curb malnutrition of 20 million children living in Asia and Africa. Vitamin D-deficient children in these parts of the globe are malnourished and could die. Vitamin D is critical for muscle, bone health and most importantly, for a healthy immune system. Deficiency of Vitamin D is often blamed for muscle wasting in malnourished children.
Collaborative teams from University of the Punjab and Queen Mary University of London showed positive results on Vitamin D supplements in their clinical trial. This was shown in the results gleaned from trials in Southern Punjab, Pakistan where an estimated 1.4 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Children who were given high doses of Vitamin D gained significant weight, have better motor and language development.
Dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease)
Austrian researchers recently published a six-year-old study which revealed that people who have Vitamin D deficiency were at risks of developing dementia, specifically, Alzheimer's disease.
An estimated 47 million people today were categorized as living with dementia worldwide. This figure is expected to multiply and reach 75 million more by 2030. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia which stirred memory loss and change in behavioral and cognitive capabilities.
The Austrian study, however, suggested that people from all walks of life can lower the risks of this degenerative disease with optimized Vitamin D intake.
The study followed more than 1,600 people at risk of developing dementia, specifically Alzheimer's disease and were found to be vitamin D deficient as well.
The participants who were severely vitamin D deficient had 122% increased chances of developing dementia. On the other hand, the other set of participants who were found moderately vitamin D deficient were 53% more at risks.
Researchers who also conducted the meta-analysis of several studies said that they were able to conclude that the results of their systematic review showed low vitamin D levels contribute to the development of dementia.
Another risk of vitamin D deficiency is depression. Globally, more than 300 million people today suffer from this mental disorder.
Marissa Flaherty, MD of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, along with her colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis which showed the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms. The randomized and controlled trials were published between 2011-2016 were measured thru the Beck Depression Inventory and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.
"People who were vitamin D deficient and depressed seemed to respond best to supplementation, but there was some evidence that supplementation improved depressive symptoms in people who had a normal level of vitamin D," Flaherty explained.
Statistics revealed that overall prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the United States is 42%, with Blacks in highest deficiency rate. The participants of the studies ranged from 40-746. In the course of 8-month study, a weekly supplementation of 50,000 oral IU of vitamin D in adult patients with a major depressive disorder (MDD) showed improved depression scores.
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Huge Belly Fats
Men and women suffering from obesity and increased belly fats showed low levels of Vitamin D.
Rachida Rafiq, a doctoral student at VU University University Medical Center and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and also the study author shared her team’s analysis on the data collected by the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO).
Rafiq and her colleagues examined the amount of body and abdominal fats measured from the participants of the NEO study in relation to their vitamin D levels. They were able to arrive at some interesting findings taking into consideration some factors such as alcohol intake, levels of physical activity and chronic disease.
Results showed obese men with higher levels of overall fat have lower vitamin D levels. This is not found for obese women, however.
The higher amounts of liver fats among obese women were linked to lower vitamin D and this was not found among obese men.
"It remains unclear, however, whether low vitamin D causes people to store abdominal fat or whether excess belly fat somehow triggers vitamin D levels to drop," Rafiq said. "That will be a focus for future study."
The research findings will be presented at a European Society of Endocrinology meeting in Barcelona, Spain.