Acutely ill patients have low vitamin D levels

SYDNEY - A group of scientists has observed that very sick patients tend to have severely low levels of vitamin D. Recently, Vitamin D has been recognised for its diverse role. It helps in protecting against diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Paul Lee, John Eisman and Jackie Centre, researchers at Garvan Institute of Medical Research, (GIMR) examined 42 intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Forty-five percent turned out to be Vitamin D deficient.

‘Until now, the medical community has thought of Vitamin D deficiency as a chronic condition,’ said Paul Lee. ‘Little is known about its acute complications.’

‘Vitamin D has been recognised for its many roles beyond the musculoskeletal system. It has been implicated in diabetes, in the immune system, in cancers, in heart disease and in metabolic syndrome,’ Lee said.

‘Vitamin D appears to have roles in controlling sugar, calcium, heart function, gut integrity, immunity and defence against infection.’

‘Patients in ICU suffer from different degrees of inflammation, infection, heart dysfunction, diarrhoea and metabolic dysregulation - so vitamin D deficiency may play a role in each of these common ICU conditions,’ Lee said.

‘So we did a preliminary study and found that 45 percent of people in our ICU were vitamin D deficient.’

When the team correlated the Vitamin D levels with a disease severity score, there was a direct correspondence between sickness and Vitamin D deficiency, said a GIMR release.

In other words, the more ill someone was, the lower the levels of Vitamin D. Out of the 42 patients studied, there were three deaths, who had the lowest ever level of Vitamin D in the study.

Lee believes that the study, while preliminary, is important because it highlights the fact that Vitamin D deficiency is common in intensive care units and is associated with disease severity.

These findings were published in the April issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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