Health Scan: Vitamin D for ICU

Only 10 or 15 minutes of sun exposure daily are enough to produce vitamin D in the skin.

May 12, 2012 22:53
2 minute read.
A child in the sun [illustrative]

Children in the sun child sunscreen sun block 370. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Although Israel is a very sunny country, many residents of all ages suffer from vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency because they cover themselves up – to reduce the risk of skin cancer or for religious reasons – and because children spend more time in front of the computer and TV than playing outdoors.

Only 10 or 15 minutes of sun exposure daily are enough to produce vitamin D in the skin, or one can take inexpensive oral vitamin supplements.

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Having enough of the vitamin has been shown to cut the prevalence of many disorders, from osteoporosis to ovarian cancer. Scientists have long believed that vitamin D, which is naturally absorbed from sunlight, has an important role in the functioning of the body’s autoimmune system. Now Prof.

Howard Amital of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has discovered that the vitamin may also affect the outcomes of patients in intensive care.

In a six-month study, Amital found that patients with a vitamin D deficiency lived an average of 8.9 days less than those who were found to have sufficient vitamin D. The vitamin levels also correlated with the level of disease-fighting white blood cells. The study, published in the journal QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, said further research into giving patients vitamin D could confirm that it will improve their survival outcomes.

Over the course of six months, he studied 130 critically ill patients over the age of 18 who had been admitted to an intensive care unit of a TAUaffiliated hospital and required attachment to a ventilator.

Patients who had taken vitamin D supplements prior to admittance were excluded from the study population.

Upon admittance, 107 patients were divided into two groups based on vitamin D concentration. Survival curves showed that while patients with sufficient vitamin D survived an average of 24.2 days, those who were deemed to be deficient in vitamin D survived an average of only 15.3 days; patients with sufficient vitamin D levels survived an average of 8.9 days longer and had a better white cell count.

These findings merit further investigation, says Amital, who suggests that the effects of vitamin D supplementation in critically ill patients be further assessed in future studies. The initial results indicate only that vitamin D concentration may be an indicator of survival, he says. The TAU researcher suggests consulting your doctor about a blood test to determine vitamin D levels and taking supplements if the level is too low, as it’s becoming clear that the vitamin does have an impact on overall health and well-being.

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