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The Importance of Vitamin D
It has recently been suggested that half the population of Britain suffer mild deficiency of vitamin D. Because of this, they face increased risks of fractures and of getting cancers and other diseases in later life, and a specialist has warned that only regular consumption of supplements is likely to solve the problem.
At a conference yesterday, Professor Roger Bouillon, from Leuven University in Belgium, said that the use of vitamin D supplements is vital as people were not taking in enough oily fish or not getting enough exposure to sunlight.
'We already know that insufficient vitamin D increases the risk for osteoporosis, falls and fractures, but there is new evidence that even a mild deficiency can be associated with more tuberculosis, and some studies also suggest an increased risk for colon, breast and prostate cancer,' he said. Speaking at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Glasgow, Bouillon - one of the world's leading experts on vitamin D - said more large-scale studies were needed to see if larger intakes of vitamin D would lead to reductions in disease around the world.
'If these studies do show the benefits we expect, then more than a billion people of all ages around the world would need to increase their vitamin D intake.'
Bouillon said that research had shown half the population of Europe suffered from mild vitamin D deficiency. Teenage girls are known to be particularly vulnerable, with up to 85 per cent suffering from a mild deficiency in winter months. Vitamin D has also been shown to increase levels of enzymes that can help fight cancer cells.
Other studies have found that low levels increase the risk of complications in the joints of the hip and knee, which can lead to osteoarthritis.
Last year researchers in America published a review of previous studies that examined the relationship between blood levels of vitamin D and cancer. This suggested the risk of some cancers could be halved if vitamin D intake was sufficient.
The papers, published worldwide between 1966 and 2004, included 30 investigations of colon cancer, 13 of breast cancer, 26 of prostate cancer and seven of ovarian ancer, and showed that, for at least some cancers, the vitamin D factor could not be ignored.