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Low vitamin D levels linked to increased disease disability in optic nerve damage

A new study has found that patients with neuromyelitis optica have lower vitamin D levels than healthy controls and that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increase in disease related disability.

Neuromyelitis otpica (NMO) is a medical condition in which the optic nerve and spinal cord become inflamed and damaged. NMO has many different causes, with no known cure. Certain cases of NMO can be considered an autoimmune disease when the immune system mistakenly attacks a protein that the body makes.

There is an extensive amount of scientific literature that shows patients with autoimmune diseases have lower vitamin D levels and that within these patients, lower vitamin D levels correlate with increased disease related disability and disease activity.

Therefore, researcher working out of the United Kingdom and South Korea wanted to investigate the relationship between autoimmune NMO, vitamin D status, and disability related to NMO.

They collected blood samples from 51 autoimmune NMO patients and 204 healthy controls and compared the vitamin D levels between the two groups.

The researchers then recorded the disease related disability in NMO patients by using the expanded disability status scale (EDSS). EDSS is a method of quantifying disability in NMO patients.

Results showed vitamin D levels were significantly lower in NMO patients compared to healthy controls and that vitamin D levels were negatively associated with EDSS scores, meaning patients with lower vitamin D levels had greater disease related disability.

“It remains to be determined whether low vitamin D levels predispose to NMO and/or modify disease severity, or are secondary to neurological disability. In either case the results could also be of relevance to other neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis as well as NMO,” the researchers concluded.

The researchers call for future studies that administer vitamin D supplementation to patients with NMO and see how it affects the development of the disease.

Available sunlight may relate to risk of common digestive disease

New research published in JAMA Surgery reports an increased risk for diverticulitis and associated complications in regions with low ultraviolet light.

Diverticulitis is a common disease in which small pouches that form in a process known as diverticulosis, typically on the walls of the large intestine, become infected. Roughly 50% of Americans over the age of 60 have diverticulosis, with about 10-25% going on to develop diverticulitis.

A colectomy is a procedure to remove all or part of the colon and is sometimes done to treat diverticulitis and remove the pouches.

Recently, an American research team conducted a study aimed at strengthening past research that suggested a relationship between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of diverticulitis.

Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Since large scale data exists on ultraviolet (UV) light availability, the researchers wanted to know if regions with differing amounts of UV light showed differing rates of hospital admissions for diverticulitis.

They collected information on 226,522 diverticulitis admissions using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database that estimates national hospital inpatient stays. They then connected the hospital locations with data on UV light in those regions.

Areas with high UV light had 668.1 cases of diverticulitis per 100,000 total admissions, compared to 751.8 per 100,000 admissions in areas of low UV light.

In areas with high UV light, 11.5% of patients had a colectomy compared to 13.5% in areas with low UV light.

Most Robust Study of Its Kind’ Confirms Link Between Low Vitamin D and Dementia

The link between low vitamin D and dementia has again been confirmed with the publication of a robust six-year long study4 conducted by an international team of researchers. As reported by Science Daily:5

“[S]tudy participants who were severely vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease…

[A]dults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 percent in those who were severely deficient.

Similar results were recorded for Alzheimer’s disease, with the moderately deficient group 69 percent more likely to develop this type of dementia, jumping to a 122 percent increased risk for those severely deficient.”

The authors concluded that: “Our results confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer disease. This adds to the ongoing debate about the role of vitamin D in nonskeletal conditions.”

The findings also suggest there’s a threshold level of circulating vitamin D, below which your risk for dementia increases. This threshold was found to be right around 50 nmol/L, or 20 ng/ml. Higher levels were associated with good brain health.

Based on previous research, I believe 20 ng/ml is still too low, and potentially dangerously so… When it comes to vitamin D, you really want to be in the optimal or clinically relevant range, and as the years have gone by, researchers have progressively moved that target range upward.

At present, based on the evaluation of healthy populations that get plenty of natural sun exposure, the optimal range for general health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml, or 125-175 nmol/L—a far cry from the threshold suggested in this study.