High dose vitamin D pills 'can double heart condition risk'
This could just mean that people who feel poorly are more likely to take supplements but I also think it is a worthwhile warning against pill-popping. The likelihood of pill popping doing you any good is negligible and there are many people who have lived to a ripe old age without any pills at all
Taking high doses of vitamin D could more than double the chance of having a type of serious heart complaint, according to results of a large-scale survey.
Those with "excess" levels of the vitamin in their blood were 2.5 times more likely than those with normal levels to have atrial fibrillation (AF), a type of heart flutter common in old age which can lead to stroke. More than a million people in Britain are thought to have AF, the vast majority over 70.
The results, presented this week at a meeting of the American Heart Association, are perhaps most concerning for post-menopausal women, who commonly take supplements of the vitamin with calcium to help fend off osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and cellular health. The body naturally manufactures it when the skin is exposed to strong sunlight. However, in winter reserves can drop due to lack of sunlight, so many people take supplements. However, baseline levels vary considerably, both between people and over the seasons, meaning some could unnecessarily be topping up.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Centre in Utah looked at blood tests from 132,000 of their patients.
They found those with vitamin D levels above 100 nanograms per 100ml, were 2.5 times more likely to have AF as those with normal levels (41-80ng/100ml).
Dr T Jared Bunch, a heart rhythm specialist, said patients should always tell their doctors what vitamins they were taking. He said: "Patients don't think of vitamins and supplements as drugs. But any vitamin or supplement that is touted as 'healing' or 'natural' is a drug and will have effects that are both beneficial and harmful. "Just like any therapy, vitamins need to be taken for the right reasons and at the right doses."
Doctors have increasingly recognised vitamin D's crucial importance to overall health, helping to fend off not only osteoporosis but also multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
They have also realised that many people in Britain now suffer from vitamin D deficiency, due in part to increasingly indoor lifestyles, with GPs seeing more children with rickets.
Doctors now advise that all people over 65 should take regular supplements, as should children up to five, pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who do not get enough sun and people with darker skin.
Cautious mothers give peanut butter parties for kids outside hospital in case of allergic reaction
They are probably doing more good than they know. Kids introduced to peanuts early are less likely to become allergic to them
WORRIED parents are holding "peanut butter parties" in parks near the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide in which they give their children the spread for the first time.
The parties put parents in quick reach of emergency medical help should their child have an anaphylactic reaction.
Christine Dening, of St Peters, said her mothers' group leader had suggested exposing her son Henry, 2, to peanuts near the WCH "just in case".
"That way we could dash to the emergency room if he reacted," Ms Dening said. "(The group leader) also recommended doing it with a group so that we could support each other and help to reduce anxiety."
Although there is no history of allergy in Ms Dening's family, she was concerned about Henry's potential reaction to peanuts. She said she would do things differently with her daughter, Eliza, seven months, because Henry proved to be allergy-free.
"In hindsight, I was more worried about allergies than I needed to be given there are no allergies in the family and the likelihood of an anaphylactic reaction is low," she said. "I'll try Eliza with peanuts at home, although I'll probably still have 000 on my speed dial, just in case."
Gerry Tudorovic said she had considered attending a peanut butter party after hearing about the event through her mothers' group but in the end opted to introduce the food to her son Spencer, 2, at home.
"I wanted to make sure we were in Adelaide and not doing anything just in case," she said. "I was mildly worried, as I have a friend whose child is extremely allergic, but not too worried as my husband and I are not allergic to foods, and I was never too picky about Spencer eating foods which had traces of nuts."
Dietitian Julia Boase, who specialises in paediatrics and allergies, said she was aware of peanut butter parties near the WCH.
"I've even heard of mums driving to the emergency department car park and giving their kids their first peanut butter sandwich there," she said. "There's a bit of a heightened level of parental anxiety out there because allergies are on the rise but parents need to remember that the majority of kids don't have an allergy."
Ms Boase suggested concerned parents followed the advice of the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, which says there is no evidence parents should delay the introduction of potentially allergenic foods.
Anaphylaxis Australia vice-president Sandra Vale said the organisation had heard of parents around the country visiting hospitals to let their children try potentially allergenic foods nearby.
"This is especially true if they have an older child that has an allergy," she said. "The waiting list in hospitals for testing is long so this is a safety precaution for these parents. "I think there is an increased need for education, as well as better access to services. "Parents just want peace of mind."
Dr Mike Gold, an allergist at the WCH, said parents should discuss their concerns with their GP, especially if a sibling already had a nut allergy.
"In some infants or children further investigations such as a simple blood test can be performed by a general practitioner to exclude a possible nut allergy," he said.
A WCH spokeswoman said the hospital was not aware of parents holding the "peanut butter parties" near the hospital.