Raising Vitamin D Levels May Slash Preterm Birth Risk

Vitamin D and preterm birth ratesA new study finds maintaining strong blood levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy may aid in reducing the risk of delivering a preterm baby by 60%.

Data from over 1000 babies and mothers was analyzed.  Vitamins levels were tested at the mother’s first prenatal visit.  If Vitamin D levels were below 40 ng/ml a supplement was provided and the mother was retested at between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy and again upon the delivery of the baby.  Overall 90% of the women participating in the study initially had Vitamin D levels below 40 ng/ml, with 97% of black women participants having beginning Vitamin D levels lower than 40 ng/ml.  Participants who had Vitamin D levels over the 40 ng/ml at the first follow up test had a 6% preterm delivery rate, which is a full 60% lower rate than the preterm delivery rate found in the normal population.  The non-white participants had an 18% preterm delivery rate at the beginning of the study and a 78% lower rate of preterm births if they increased their Vitamin D above the 40 ng/ml level by the 2nd test.  Preterm birth rates in non-white women were reduced to 4% if they had 2 follow up tests to assess their Vitamin D levels.

The finding of this study confirms previous research which showed a 59% reduction in the risks of pre-term deliveries in women with Vitamin D blood levels of at least 40 ng/ml when compared to women with levels of less than 20 ng/ml.  Researchers believe that because Vitamin D status is modifiable the results of this analysis are important in insuring Vitamin D testing and supplementation in pregnant women is not overlooked.

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Low Omega-3 Levels Linked to Prenatal Depression

Omega-3 and Prenatal DepressionA new study shows an Omega-3 deficiency as well as increased inflammation may be associated with prenatal depression (PND).  Also an Omega-3 deficiency may result in longer episodes of depression.

33 women (17 women with PND and 16 healthy women) in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy participated in this study.  Their inflammatory markers, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) as well as their Omega-3 levels were measured.  The women who experienced PND had significantly higher TNF-a levels and significantly lower Omega-3 levels.

These finds confirm other observational studies that show higher levels of total Omega-3 (DHA  and EPA) seem to act as “protective factors” against major depressive disorder (MDD).  Also larger DHA levels found in breast milk and increasing the consumption of DHA rich foods, like seafood, have been shown as links to decreased risks of postpartum depression.  Omega-3 deficiencies seen during pregnancy may also increase the length of the depressive episodes which could last even into the first year after delivery.  This could lead to psychosocial dysfunction, suicide, poor mother-child relationships, and destructive behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse according to this study.

Future larger sample size studies are needed to replicate the findings in this study.

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Meta-Analysis Supports Potential of Omega-3s for ADHD

Omega-3 and ADHDAccording to a new meta-analysis of “gold standard” clinical studies, Omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements could improve symptoms and cognitive performance in adolescents and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Data taken from seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and involving over 500 youth was analyzed using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines.  The data used was taken from established scientific literature databases to insure only appropriate studies were included in this meta-analysis.

Researchers found that supplementation with Omega-3 essential fatty acids significantly improved hyperactivity and inattention symptoms. Improvements in hyperactivity were only seen when doses of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) were over 500 mg/day.  Additionally data from case-control studies were also taken to determine if Omega-3 levels were associated with ADHD.  Results showed that adolescents and children with ADHD had lower levels of EPA, DHA and total Omega-3.  Improvements in certain measures of cognitive performance were also associated with Omega-3 supplementation.

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Maternal Vitamin D May Be Vital To Childhood Development

Vitamin D and Childhood DevelopmentAccording to new research preventing Vitamin D deficiencies in women who are pregnant may be important for insuring their child’s normal development.

Over 7000 mother child pairs were studied in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children a cohort study.  All pairs were accessed for Vitamin D status (serum total 25(OH)D) levels during pregnancy (for the mother) and at least one measure of child neurodevelopment: Pre-school development at six to 42 months; Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire scores at age 7; IQ (Intelligence Quotient) at age 8; Reading Ability at age 9.  Additional tests assessing the child’s coordination, balancing, jumping, kicking a ball, building brick towers, were performed.

Researchers reported that the children of Vitamin D deficient mothers were more likely to have test scores in the lowest group (the bottom 25%) for pre-school developments tests (gross and fine motor development) when compared to the children of Vitamin D sufficient mothers.  Prenatal Vitamin D insufficiencies were also found to affect the social development of the children at ages 3 and ½.  No associations between maternal Vitamin D status and other outcomes at older ages like IQ or reading abilities were seen.

Researchers concluded that preventing Vitamin D deficiencies in pregnancy may be important to prevent below average development in the first four years of a child’s life.

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Lutein Levels Linked To A More Agile And “Youthful” Brain

Lutein and CognitionA new study finds a high intake of Lutein may slow down cognitive decline.

60 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 45 participated in this study.  Carotenoid levels were assessed by measuring MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density), which is considered a trusted indicator of Lutein levels in the brain. Event related brain activity was used as a gauge of cognitive function and was recorded as the participants performed cognitive control testing.  Study results showed MPOD was related to both specific electrical brain activity and age during the decision making process, known as the P3 wave.  Younger adults showed a larger abundance of P3 than the older participants however, the older participants with higher MPOD levels displayed P3 measures equal to the younger participants.  Researchers concluded that Lutein appears to have a protective role in the brain since the study data indicated that participants with more Lutein were able to utilize more cognitive resources to finish their tasks.

Besides being beneficial to brain health, Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been shown to provide support for vision and vision diseases since Lutein appears to accumulate in both the brain and in the eyes.  The ability of Lutein in brain processing, memory, speed and processing is intriguing since Lutein cannot be manufactured on its own in the body.

Further study is warranted.

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Study Underscores Positive Effect of Vitamin D on Female Fertility

Vitamin D and Female FertilityNew research linking Vitamin D levels to regulation of ovarian hormones shows Vitamin D status may play an essential role in female reproduction and fertility.

49 women, ages 19 through 25, participated in this study.  The criteria for women to participate in this research were as follows:

Participants must have regular menstrual cycles

Participants could not be pregnant

Participants had not breastfed within the past two months

Participants had not supplemented with Vitamin D

Participants had not travelled to the northern hemisphere

Participants had not used a tanning booth or sunbed

Participants were given a Vitamin D supplement or a placebo during the week after their menstrual period began.  Changes in AMH levels (anti-Mullerian hormone levels) were analyzed. The anti-Mullerian hormone is an ovarian regulator however; its function is largely unknown.  Results of the study showed a single dose of oral Vitamin D generated a sharp change in the serum levels of 25(OH)D (the most accurate measure of Vitamin D in the body).  A progressive rise in the participants AMH levels was also seen.  These findings support the theory the Vitamin D has a positive effect on a women’s fertility and may involve the regulation of AMH levels.

Researchers strongly suggest further clinical studies are needed.

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Does Iron Supplementation Promise Lower Heart Attack Risk?

Iron and HeartA new study identifies low levels of iron as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide and researchers look at iron supplementation as a low cost method for reducing the risk of heart disease.

Genomic data from over 48,000 people was used in this study.  Genetic variations were used as a way to determine a person’s iron level and its link to their cardiovascular disease risk (CVD).  Researchers looked at a trio of points located in the genome (the genetic material of an organism) where a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), an alteration in the DNA, can increase or decrease the iron status of a person. These SNPs were identified as rs1800562 and rs1799945 in the HFE gene and rs855791 in the TMPRSS6.  When these SNPs were reviewed researchers found those participants with the SNPs for higher iron status had reduced risks for coronary artery disease (CAD).

Current research has shown mixed results regarding iron and cardiovascular disease.  High iron stores have also been associated with increased risks factors for CVD, like Type 2 Diabetes.  Observational studies have also shown a protective effect of increased iron levels on CAD as wells as an increased death rate in patients with iron deficiency and heart failure.

This study used the Mendelian randomization technique, which has been proven effective in accounting for reverse causation, lifestyle factors or environmental factors.  The World Health Organization estimates approximately 2 billion people worldwide do not get enough iron from their diet, which can lead to anemia, shortness of breath, increased risk of infections, heart palpitations, and may cause tiredness.

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