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H1N1 and many other illnesses, including Multiple Sclerosis - Linked To Vitamin D Deficiency

Posted Nov 17 2009 10:20pm
Why, in the land of plenty and, now, also in the land of over-consumption, overweight and obesity, can there be an epidemic of a vitamin D deficiency or any other nutrient?
According to a recent study, as many as 77 percent of all Americans may be deficient in the vitamin essential for bone health and which may prevent H1N1 (Swine Flu) and seasonal flu, wheezing, winter-related eczema, upper respiratory infections and may help prevent cancer, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, certain infectious diseases, myocardial infarctions – heart attacks – and many other serious diseases.

When subgroups of the population are considered, depending on which of the many reasonable definitions of deficiency are accepted, the picture is even more ominous. For example, an important new study from Children's Hospital in Boston found that as many as 80 percent of Hispanic children and 92 percent of black children, what the study calls non-Hispanic black children, may also be deficient in this vitamin.

We're talking about vitamin D, also called the sunshine vitamin and often considered the nutrient of the year, if not the decade. Its power as a determinant of human health can be captured by what happens when someone is D deficient. They are at risk for what is called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

In its most extreme form, the bones soften and almost melt, making them so fragile that the simple act of walking up steps may cause bones to fracture and slight movement may cause excruciating pain. In its most severe form, a blood test for vitamin D may show zero. Dr. Fred Kaplan, an eminent orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, whose patient had zero D, said this is rare even in Third World countries.

Why, in the land of plenty and, now, also in the land of over-consumption, overweight and obesity, can there be an epidemic of a vitamin D deficiency or any other nutrient? The reasons may not be fully understood, but the picture is still clear: Over time, we have obtained most of our vitamin D from the sun. When ultraviolet B rays hit the skin they cause the formation of vitamin D. But, in an age of sunscreens and well-placed fear of skin cancer, we tend to either stay out of the sun or use a sunscreen to shield us from its rays, including the ultraviolet B ray.

Even if you stayed in the sun all day in some locations, you would not get enough vitamin D. For example, north of Philadelphia, between November and March, the suns rays are not strong enough to precipitate the formation of vitamin D. And, during early morning and late afternoon, the sun’s rays are not strong enough to generate vitamin D. That’s a big part of the picture, as authorities find that exposure to the sun is the main determinant of vitamin D in humans. This leads us to the next source of vitamin D — our food. Some dairy products, such as milk, are fortified with vitamin D, but we tend to avoid dairy products due to their cholesterol and saturated fat content. Other sources are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring. Still other sources are fortified cereal and other foods such as orange juice, now, often fortified both with vitamin D and calcium. But, most people don’t eat enough of these foods to get enough vitamin D. So, that leaves supplementation with multi-vitamins that include D, combination calcium and vitamin D pills, or vitamin D stand-alones.

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