Vitamin D deficiency may affect many young children

June 02, 2008

Many young children do not get enough vitamin D, an often invisible deficiency that can show up later as broken bones or a weakened immune system prone to disease, researchers said on Monday.

Two out of five U.S. children aged 8 months to 2 years who took part in a 380-patient study at Children's Hospital Boston had less-than-optimal blood levels of vitamin D.

The main risk factors were not drinking enough fortified milk, not taking vitamins and being overweight, said the report published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Lead researcher Catherine Gordon of Children's Hospital Boston said the 40 percent deficiency rate "is higher than expected in a country that has vitamin D fortified milk."One-third of vitaminD–deficient participants exhibited demineralization, highlighting the deleterious skeletal effects of this condition. Children with vitamin D deficiency sometimes have bowed legs or easily fractured bones. They can also appear tired, or shaky, or suffer seizures in severe cases. Overweight children were found to be prone to vitamin D deficiency, perhaps because the vitamin dissolves into fat, Gordon said.Also at risk for a vitamin D deficiency was breast-fed infants, because "breast milk is the perfect food except that it lacks vitamin D," Gordon said. The study is published in the June 5th 2008 issue of the journalArchives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Scientists find interaction between gene and Vitamin D that allows for lower incidence of prostate cancer

The benefits of vitamin D for prostates may be due to the action of the vitamin on a specific gene, suggests new research that deepens our understanding of how nutrients and genes interact. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center report that the active form of Vitamin D in the body, 1,25-hydroxylvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D), may link with a gene known as G6PD, which releases an antioxidant enzyme that protects DNA from damage. Damage to DNA caused by free radicals is a crucial contributor to dangerous cellular changes and mutations that may trigger the cancer process.
"Many epidemiological studies have suggested the beneficial properties of vitamin D," said lead researcher Yi-Fen Lee. "Our findings reflect what we see in those studies and demonstrate that vitamin D not only can be used as a therapy for prostate cancer, it can prevent prostate cancer from happening."

Normal healthy prostate cells (BPH-1 and RWPE-1) and prostate cancer cells (CWR22R and DU 145) were subjected to oxidative stress. The researchers found that 1,25(OH)2D induced G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase), a key antioxidant enzyme, in the healthy but not cancer cells. G6PD scavenges reactive oxygen species (ROS) associated with DNA damage.
"If you reduce DNA damage, you reduce the risk of cancer or aging," said Lee said. "Our study adds one more beneficial effect of taking a vitamin D supplement. Taking a supplement is especially important for senior citizens and others who might have less circulation of vitamin D, and for people who live and work areas where there is less sunshine."

"In this study, we have demonstrated that 1,25-(OH)2D can protect nonmalignant human prostate epithelial cells against H2O2-induced cell death through modulating the ROS defense systems, suggesting a possible role of 1,25-(OH)2D in prostate cancer prevention," stated the researchers. The study shows that Vitamin D can protect normal-healthy cells from damage and dangerous cellular changes while improving the ability to fight cancerous cells. The study is published in the March 17th, 2008 issue of The International Journal of Cancer.