Last year, Dr. Michael Holick, an endocrinologist from Boston University Medical Center, wrote a wonderful review article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on vitamin D deficiency and also on the incredible benefits of this nutrient. Dr. Holick has published widely on the benefits of vitamin D. In fact, another article of his appeared in the June 11, 2008 edition of Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. It revealed how vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide health problem, indicating that lack of sun exposure and vitamin D deficiency have been linked to many serious diseases, including infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disorders and deadly cancers.
Dr. Holick also presented an amazing statistic that estimated how the risk of developing colon-rectal, breast and prostate cancer can be decreased by 30 to 50% through either increasing vitamin D intake to at least 1,000 IU per day, or increasing sun exposure to raise vitamin D levels above 30 ng/ml. He also noted that recent studies suggest women who are vitamin D deficient have over a 250% increased risk of developing colon-rectal cancer, and that women who ingest 1,500 mg a day of calcium along with 1,100 IU of vitamin D3 for four years reduce their risk of developing cancer by more than 60%.
These are very powerful numbers. I came across another interesting article on vitamin D in the June 2008 edition of the Archives of Neurology. Vitamin D dependent rickets is a rare, inherited condition. The article states that vitamin D appears to be emerging as an important risk factor regarding susceptibility of developing Multiple Sclerosis.
The article is a case report of three patients who had this rare form of rickets from vitamin D deficiency. All three of these patients had clinical criteria consistent with Multiple Sclerosis. Two of the patients had undergone MRI scanning which confirmed the presence of long lasting Multiple Sclerosis.
Now on to some of my other favorite nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids. There was a wonderful historical overview on omega-3 essential fatty acids and coronary artery disease in the June 2008 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It was mentioned in the article that the beneficial effects of fish oil, in regards to coronary artery disease, was demonstrated by the fact that Eskimos in Greenland who had diets high in these essential fatty acids experienced a lower mortality from coronary artery disease.
It was noted that in 1989, there was a study showing a 29% reduction in fatal cardiac arrhythmias among individuals who had had a recent heart attack and were advised to consume fish oil. A subsequent large study showed a significant reduction in relative risk of death, cardiac death, non-fatal heart attack and stroke in individuals consuming essential fatty acids.
The article also cited a recent study in which individuals who were implanted with cardiac defibrillators because of a high risk for developing life-ending cardiac arrhythmias were randomly assigned to receive either 4 grams a day of omega-3 fatty acids or olive oil for one year. The individuals who received the omega-3 fatty acids had a significantly reduced risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias compared to those that consumed olive oil.
There were two other interesting studies just published on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. In the first study, appearing in the June 2008 edition of the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, a group of 60 patients with systemic lupus were randomized to receive either 3 grams a day of omega-3 fatty acids or placebo for a total of 24 weeks. Those individuals who received the fish oil had a significant improvement in their lupus symptoms, also with improving function in the inner lining of their blood vessels.
The second study, published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Diabetologia, reported that 324 participants between the ages of 20 to 40 years old who were over weight were randomized to receive either fish oil capsules or put on various diets. It was found that those individuals who took in fish oil had significant improvement in insulin resistance after eight weeks.