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Scientists have found a direct link between a deficiency in vitamin D – caused by lack of exposure to the sun – and hypertension, which also raises the likelihood of stroke and heart attacks.
The worldwide study found that people with high concentrations of the “sunshine vitamin” had reduced blood pressure.
Scientists say there is a “strong case for food fortification with vitamin D to prevent some kinds of cardiovascular disease”.
A spokesman for Vitabiotics, who developed Ultra Vitamin D, which contains the preferred D3 form found in the body said: “Vitamin D has been called the ‘Wonder Vitamin’ as it plays a truly remarkable role in the body and is essential for all round good health. Vitamin D has been found to influence all 36 organ tissues in the body.
“It is not only vital for strong bones, but is now known for its role in the immune system, hormone metabolism, brain function and mood, Cardio-vascular function and now blood pressure regulation. While scientific data is mounting on almost a daily basis about the enormous benefits of vitamin D, at the same time it is clear most of us are not getting enough vitamin D due to the lack of sunlight we are exposed to throughout the year.
“New research shows that optimum intake levels of vitamin D may be far higher than previously thought and this has led to widespread calls from leading doctors and scientists across Europe for the RDA for vitamin D to be increased.”
Researchers at University College London carried out a genetic examination of 35 studies involving 155,000 people from across Europe and North America.
Lead researcher Dr Vimal Karani said while observational links between a lack of vitamin D and increases in blood pressure had been made in the past, the connection was not clear.
“The whole picture was somewhat confused, and we decided to try to figure it out once and for all,” he said.
Vitamin D is mainly made in the skin as a reaction to sunlight but may also be obtained from oily fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereal. It is known to be important for good health, growth and strong bones.
In the study, researchers used genetic variants known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, to reflect an individual’s vitamin D status in order to test for an association with hypertension.
The results, published at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Paris, found a significant link.
For every 10 per cent increase in vitamin D concentrations, there was a 8.1 per cent decrease in the risk of developing hypertension.
Vitamin D has been called the Wonder Vitamin
Dr Karani, from the Institute of Child Health at UCL, said: “To put it in simple terms, by using this approach we can determine the cause and effect and be pretty sure that we’ve come to the right conclusion.
“Our study strongly suggests that some cases of cardiovascular disease could be prevented through vitamin D supplements or food fortification.”
He added: “We believe that we still have a lot to find out about the effect of vitamin D deficiency on health, and we now know that we have the tools to do so.”
Most foods naturally contain very little Vitamin D.
Some foods are already fortified with it, and the study called this to be extended.
The report was welcomed by health organisations in Britain where around 16 million people suffer from high blood pressure, most of them unaware of it.
Katharine Jenner, chief executive of Blood Pressure UK, said: “This study adds to the increasing body of research suggesting vitamin D is linked to high blood pressure, one of the biggest causes of death in the UK. Lowering your blood pressure will lower your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.”
She added: “Find out your blood pressure numbers, and then you can take appropriate action.
“If we are to prevent more cardiovascular diseases we need to consider all the tools at our disposal, which may include vitamin D fortification, but also eating less salt, more fruit and vegetables and more exercise.”
Lack of vitamin D is common throughout the Western world. Mild deficiency causes tiredness and general aches and pains, but a more severe lack can cause rickets – where long bones are weakened and start to bend – in children and softening of the bones in adults.
Most at risk are pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five, people aged 65 and over, and those not exposed to much sun.
Oil battles tumours
A spoonful of olive oil a day and handful of nuts could hugely increase the chances of surviving prostate cancer, a study suggests.
Replacing 10 per cent of carbohydrate in a sufferer’s diet with vegetable fats lowered the risk of death by 29 per cent.
And eating an ounce of nuts a day lowered that risk by 18 per cent, according to the University of California study published online by the journal Jama Internal Medicine.
Researchers reported: “Our findings support following a heart-healthy diet.”
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Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins