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Health and Science

22nd Feb 2013
Health and Science

By Rachel Kayani

Obesity may lead to Vitamin D deficiency

A new study has found that obesity may cause Vitamin D deficiency in the body, prompting concerns that seriously overweight people may need to be given vitamin D supplements to compensate. Researchers from University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Child Health analysed genetic data from 21 studies (a total of 42,000 people) and found that a 10% increase in body mass index (BMI) was linked to a 4% reduction in concentrations of Vitamin D.

The reasons why obesity should lead to a lack of Vitamin D is not fully clear, but the researchers who carried out the study suggest that as Vitamin D is stored in fatty tissue, patients with excess amounts of fat may store and hold onto the Vitamin D preventing it from circulating in the blood.

Most Vitamin D is made by exposure of the sun on the skin; the UV light converts the vitamin into its active form which can be used by the body. In recent years there has been concern that people may be suffering from a lack of Vitamin D due to the use of sun creams and avoiding sun exposure for fear of skin cancer. People with darker skin can also be at risk as they need more sunlight to make Vitamin D. This study suggests that people with obesity should also be monitored to check their Vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D levels can be measured from a blood sample. Healthy levels are about 50 nanomole per litre, less than 30 nanomole per litre is considered low and can cause softening and weakening of the bones as Vitamin D is involved in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. A lack of Vitamin D can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D is also thought to affect the immune system and the cardiovascular system.

Measles outbreak continues

This number of measles cases has reached its highest level for 18 years, with 2,016 confirmed cases in England and Wales in 2012, the highest annual total since 1994, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA). Areas mainly affected are Merseyside, Surrey and Sussex with smaller outbreaks also occurring in travelling communities.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease. Symptoms include fever, cold-like symptoms, sensitivity to light, white spots in the mouth and throat and a reddish coloured rash.

Whilst unpleasant most people make a full recovery from measles, however, complications can occur and in some cases it can be more severe, requiring hospital treatment, and in a few cases it can prove fatal.

Most children are immunised against measles by the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). However, following the scare over the safety of the vaccine in 1998 many parents have not had their children vaccinated. In addition, the vaccine is given in two separate jabs and some children will have received the first immunisation but may not have received the booster at pre-school age. As measles is highly infectious it can easy spread among individuals who have not been vaccinated and those who have not received the booster vaccination.

Healthcare workers recommend that people who have not received the MMR or have not had two doses make an appointment with their GP to receive the vaccine.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “Coverage of MMR is now at historically high levels but measles is highly infectious and can spread easily among communities that are poorly vaccinated, and can affect anyone who is susceptible, including toddlers in whom vaccination has been delayed.

“Older children who were not vaccinated at the routine age, who may now be teenagers, are at particular risk of becoming exposed, while at school for example.”

Rachel Kayani

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