Vitamin D bread raises bone mineral
density in elderly
A bread fortified with very high levels of vitamin D appeared to be much better at protecting bone health in elderly people than bone-building drugs, according to a study presented this week. Speaking at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, the researchers said that elderly patients who consumed 5000 IU of vitamin D and 320 mg calcium carbonate a day through a specially formulated bread had a 28 per cent increase in lumbar bone mineral density after one year. This compares to the 8 per cent increase in bone mass density typically achieved with bone-building drugs. "We designed the study two years ago and could not get approval for use of this much vitamin D," he said. The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Food recommends an upper safe level of 50mcg (2,000 IU) vitamin D, the same level recommended by the US Food and Nutrition Board. It is thought that higher doses of vitamin D can increase calcium levels circulating in the blood, causing the potentially serious condition, hypercalcaemia. The new study, carried out by Dr Veronica Mocanu and colleagues at the University of Medicine in Isai, Romania, and Dr Reinhold Veith at the University of Toronto, tested for calcium excretion and found that it did not rise above 'normal values'. The findings will add fuel to the debate raging over the role of vitamin D in health. Vitamin D is naturally produced by the skin’s exposure to UV rays in sunlight. Studies increasingly link higher risk of certain health conditions in countries with little sunshine for long periods of the year to a vitamin D deficiency. The bread was tested on 45 elderly nursing home patients in Romania, a location chosen because it is at a northern latitude similar to many cities where solar ultraviolet radiation intensity is low, especially in winter months. Previous research has found that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of potentially life-threatening falls among institutionalised elderly people by more than 20 per cent.
Further evidence of vitamin D's role against breast cancer
Women with certain versions of the vitamin D receptor gene are almost
twice as likely to develop breast cancer than women with other versions of
the gene, finds a new study, that supports previous evidence of the
vitamin's protective effect against the disease.
Dr Kay Colston and colleagues at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London found that Caucasian women who have certain versions of the vitamin D receptor gene, which controls the action of vitamin D in the body, have a nearly two-fold greater risk of breast cancer than women with other versions of the gene.
They may also have a more aggressive form of the disease if it spreads, the researchers will report in the 15 August issue of Clinical Cancer Research (Vitamin D Receptor Gene Polymorphisms).
The findings support the idea that vitamin D plays a part in protecting the body against the disease and that different versions of the vitamin D receptor gene will affect this protective function.
Author Dr Michelle Guy said: “While it is known that 5 to 10 per cent of breast cancer cases are due to a genetic predisposition associated with well-characterised genes, like BRCA1, the underlying causes of the majority of all other breast cancers remain a mystery."
"We hope that by showing that natural variations in the vitamin D receptor gene can increase susceptibility to breast cancer, we are starting to unravel how breast cancer might develop in women who have no family history of the disease."
Scientists from St George's Hospital and the University of Birmingham reported earlier this year that breast tissue contains the enzyme that activates vitamin D, and levels of this enzyme are increased in breast tumours. Previously it was thought that the active form of vitamin D, calcitriol, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, was only made in the kidney.
In the new study, the researchers looked at the VDR gene of 398 women with breast cancer and 427 women without breast cancer. The women with breast cancer were significantly more likely to have a certain versions of the gene than the cancer-free women, they found.
The research is expected to offer progress in the future treatment for breast cancer, with risk assessment and drug regimes tailored to the individual patient.
It also adds to growing knowledge of the interaction of genes on the benefits of nutrients.