Vitamin D Can Be Used As Heart Medicine

May 23, 2006

The warnings against direct sunlight in the summer should be taken with a grain of salt. The vitamin D synthesized in the skin in the wonderful sunshine, prevents, amongst other things, weakening of the heart, if we look at the latest research.

Sooner or later in the course of the summer a dermatologist will appear on television to warn against direct exposure to the sun. It may lead to skin cancer and also threatening is the feared, deadly birthmark cancer, the incidence of which has risen dramatically in step with more and more people desiring a tan. This is partly true.

On the other hand it is prudent to be skeptical when someone advices us to act against what is natural. Can it really be true that the sun is so dangerous when people in our part of the world have been far more exposed to the sun through thousands of years?

Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is in the sunlight, but not from September till May, when the sun is too low on the horizon to be used for this in our part of the world. Since our diet only contains minimal amounts of this vitamin, in the wintertime we use the vitamin which has been built up in the skin in the course of the summer. During the winter approximately 85 % of the daily D-vitamin usage is taken from reserves, even in cases where the diet is rich in D-vitamin. All in all, approximately 100 mcg. is used in a day.

But what happens if the reserves are too small?

In the past half-year a number of studies have shed light over the mysteries of vitamin D. According to one study, the vitamin can help against tuberculosis, which we know was a widespread disease in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, when many people lived under dire conditions in the cities.

Another study of over 14,000 Americans showed that the people with the largest D-vitamin reserves generally had far better lung function than those with the smallest stores. The difference is as big as the difference between ex-smokers and people who have never smoked before. A possible explanation is that the D-vitamin secures the necessary repairs of worn-out cells.

At about the same time, one of the veterans of vitamin-D research, the American Cedric Garland, concluded that now the proof that vitamin D protects against cancer (especially breast cancer, cancer of the colon and prostate cancer) was very strong. Strong enough to make him regard the connection as definite. He has reviewed all relevant research done since 1966.

Weak Heart and Arthritis
His claims can be compared to the fact that David Feldman of Stanford University now wants to conduct an experiment with calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D, which is made in body from vitamin D in the skin or the food) and ordinary arthritis medication against prostate cancer. In laboratory studies he has found that calcitriol slows the growth of prostate cancer by 25 %, while the combination with arthritis medication slows it by 70 %. A true break-through if it is true.

Everyone knows that vitamin D is necessary for the bones, but it is also necessary for the muscles. A deficiency leads to both muscle pain, weak muscles and for example, a tendency to fall in the elderly. But what about the heart? The heart is also a muscle, and weakening of the heart (cardiac insufficiency) because of atherosclerosis or increased blood pressure occurs in as many as 50,000 Danes. It is a dangerous condition with a high mortality rate.

A German study of 123 patients with a weak heart showed that on average they had quite small amounts of vitamin D in their blood stream, close to a deficiency in the traditional sense. Half of them were given supplements of 50 mcg. D3-vitamin each day for nine months. This is five times as much as the elderly are traditionally recommended given, and is also the upper limit, of what is not dangerous to ingest.
The study was too small to show a difference in mortality, but it did show something interesting. It concerns the protein TNF-alpha, which is produced by the white blood cells in connection with inflammation. TNF-alpha is meant to be a major cause of weakening of the heart. In the patients left untreated, the blood’s content of this protein increased by 5 %. In those treated, there was no worsening. This indicates a stabilizing effect on the inflammation.

This is especially interesting for another reason. TNF-alpha is an important cause of pain and swelling in arthritis. So important that new types of arthritis medication, which blocks TNF-alpha, fittingly, are considered wonder-drugs. If vitamin D decreases the effect of TNF-alpha on the weakened heart, maybe the same happens in arthritic joints. This would also confirm the old assumption that vitamin D protects against arthritis.

When in the sun, one should be sensible and avoid sunburns. Stay in the shadow if the sun is very strong and do not lie about for hours in the sun all covered up in greasy sun lotion.

Also important to know is that it is a risk rather than a virtue to stay out of the sun in the summer.

By: Vitality Council

1. Schleithof S S et al. Vitamin D supplementation improves cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure: A double blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:754-9
2. Heaney R et al. Human serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol response to extended oral dosing with cholecalciferol. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:304-10.
3. Moreno J, Krishnan AV, Feldman D. Molecular mechanisms mediating the anti-proliferative effects of Vitamin D in prostate cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Nov;92(4):317-25

Vitamin D Together With NSAID Medicine Fights Prostate Cancer

September 3, 2005

A world-famous Vitamin-D researcher has initiated a study with a very simple treatment of cancer of the prostate. If expectations are met, then it could result in a revolution in the treatment of the most frequent form of cancer in men.

Among men over 60 at least every other have cancer in the prostate, usually without knowing it. It has been discovered many years ago by investigating men who died for some other reason. Cancer in the prostate is typically a disease that you do not die from – but with! Nevertheless, it is the most frequent cause of cancer among men after lung cancer.

It is therefore difficult to deny that there is an obvious need for an effective treatment, but the treatment has been at a standstill for many years. Only now something is about to happen. More and more, the disease has been associated with the extremely widespread lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D has a normalizing and growth-inhibiting effect in many tissues.

Faith in vitamin D has now become so great that one of the world’s leading vitamin D researchers, Professor David Feldman from Stanford University, has launched a clinical study. It targets men with prostate cancer who have relapsed during usual treatment.

Feldman will give them a combination of active vitamin D (calcitriol, see below) and regular arthritis pills (ibumetin or naproxen), both in moderate doses. To avoid side effects of calcitriol, it is given only once a week, but the exact dose is not stated.

Several years of laboratory studies have preceded this. Here, it has recently been shown that calcitriol reduces the growth of prostate cancer by 25%. The same result is obtained by treatment with traditional anti-rheumatic drugs (NSAID preparations, e.g. ibumetin and naproxen).

But most convincingly, when vitamin D and anti-rheumatic drugs are combined, growth slows down by as much as 70%, even if you are content with tolerable doses of each. Both agents counteract the formation of the so-called prostaglandins, which cause the cancer cells to grow and – in another context – cause arthritic pain, etc. If they are combined, the effect is enhanced.

This, as well as the announcement of the new trial, can be seen in, among other things, of a new press release from Stanford University. If the trial fulfills expectations, it will not only have enormous significance for the treatment. It will also be a sleight-of-hand tip for healthy men to get more vitamin D – perhaps a lot more – so they can make enough calcitriol themselves (calcitriol is only available by prescription).

Feldman is not just anyone when it comes to vitamin D. Together with two others, he is behind the book “Vitamin D” (Academic Press), which is a standard work for researchers with 1,800 pages. The newly revised edition costs DKK 3,445, so it is unlikely to be a bestseller. Feldman has been researching vitamin D for many years and has more than 200 scientific articles behind him.

Vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a hormone. It is formed in the skin by sun exposure, but must be converted in the liver and kidneys to become the active calcitriol. It is by now accepted by everyone that the elderly in particular cannot possibly get enough vitamin D if they do not receive supplements or eat plenty of oily fish. This is because, with age, the skin largely loses the ability to form the vitamin. In the dark half-year, the sun is also so low in the sky (in our northern latitudes) that neither young nor old form anything of importance, whether they get sun or not.

There are less than five micrograms of vitamin D in a typical Danish daily diet, but officially it is now recommended that adults get twice as much, nursing home residents four times as much. It is not difficult to find researchers who believe that this too is too little. The upper limit of risk-free intake is estimated at 50 micrograms per day.

By: Vitality Council

Moreno J, Krishnan AV, Feldman D. Molecular mechanisms mediating the anti-proliferative effects of Vitamin D in prostate cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Nov;92(4):317-25