HEALTH

Research suggests depressed levels of vitamin D important to body’s immune system

BY Michael Johnsen

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. Deficiency in vitamin D has been widely regarded as contributing to autoimmune disease, but a review appearing in Autoimmunity Reviews released Wednesday counters that low levels of vitamin D in patients with autoimmune disease may be a result, rather than a cause of disease, and that supplementing with vitamin D may actually exacerbate autoimmune disease.

Authored by a team of researchers at the California-based non-profit Autoimmunity Research Foundation, the paper suggests that the form of vitamin D derived from food and supplements, 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-D), is a secosteroid rather than a vitamin. Like corticosteroid medications, vitamin D may provide short-term relief by lowering inflammation but may make disease symptoms worse over the long-term.

The insights are based on molecular research showing that 25-D inactivates its native receptor – the Vitamin D nuclear receptor or VDR. Once associated solely with calcium metabolism, the VDR has been linked to the control of the immune response by expressing the bulk of the body’s antimicrobial peptides, natural antimicrobials that target bacteria.

Low levels of 25-D are frequently noted in patients with autoimmune disease, leading to a consensus that a deficiency of the secosteroid may contribute to the autoimmune disease process. Marshall and team countered that these low levels of 25-D are a result, rather than a cause, of the disease process. Marshall’s research suggests that in autoimmune disease, 25-D levels are naturally down-regulated. Under such circumstances, supplementation with extra vitamin D could potentially prove counterproductive, as it slows the ability of the immune system to deal with bacteria.

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Study finds that high protein, fat diet can lead to health problems

BY Michael Johnsen

ST. LOUIS A new study in the April issue of Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, shows that in some cases, diets that are high in both fat and protein can lead to health problems.

The researchers, led by Christopher Newgard of Duke Medical Center, reported that rats fed high-fat diets supplemented with extra branched chain amino acids don’t have to eat as much or gain as much weight to develop insulin resistance, as do chubbier animals fed a high-fat diet alone. Moreover, those ill effects of branched chain amino acids, which include 3 of the 20 amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins, occurred only in the context of a high-fat diet.

“We’ve all made a big deal out of the fact that people in the United States eat too much fat and sugar, but we’ve underestimated the protein component,” Newgard said.

Surveys have shown that most people who overeat don’t show any particular prejudice toward one food group or another.

By comparing the metabolic profiles of obese versus lean people in the new study, the researchers found that key among the many differences between the two groups were elevated levels of BCAA in those who were overweight. They also showed that BCAA tend to climb along with insulin resistance, a condition that is a precursor to diabetes.

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Sensei announces launch of mobile diabetes guide

BY Michael Johnsen

BOCA RATON, Fl. Sensei on Wednesday announced the launch of its My Diabetes Guide mobile phone application, a program that takes patients step-by-step through the keys to healthy living with diabetes.

“My Diabetes Guide goes beyond blood glucose tracking and nutritional information research,” stated Robert Schwarzberg, Sensei CEO. “It is a comprehensive tool that takes patients, and those involved in their care, one screen at a time through all fundamentals of diabetes management. Physicians, dietitians and diabetes educators from Joslin reviewed the diabetes content, and our tech experts built an application that gives users the best chance to succeed in the evolving person-centric healthcare system.”

All content is downloaded directly to the mobile phone — the iPod touch and iPhone application is now available for download at the App Store in iTunes for just 99 cents. My Diabetes Guide will soon be available on other mobile phones as well, the company reported.

The application was designed by Sensei, a wholly owned subsidiary of Humana, in collaboration with the Joslin Diabetes Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

“We at Joslin are exploring every avenue to improve the self-management capabilities of people with diabetes,” stated Martin Abrahamson, medical director of Joslin. “With the proliferation of mobile phones in America, we believe this is an important avenue to reach people with diabetes.”

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