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Short-Term, High-Dose Vitamin D2 May Ease Deficiency

Expert says treatment could prevent several bone problems,,

TUESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are reporting that eight weeks of treatment with large doses of vitamin D2 can eliminate vitamin D deficiency, and twice-monthly doses can keep the condition at bay for up to six years.

The dosage -- 50,000 international units (IU) every week or two -- was large but did not appear to be toxic, according to the study published in the Oct. 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Vitamin D is crucial for the body. Among its attributes, it strengthens bones by helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. Low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets in children and an adult bone disorder called osteomalacia.

A deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis, and research has suggested that it also has something to do with higher risks for such diseases as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and flu, the study's senior author, Dr. Michael F. Holick, director of the Bone Healthcare Clinic and the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

For their study, the researchers treated 41 people who had low levels of vitamin D with 50,000 IU of the vitamin each week for two months. On average, their vitamin D levels nearly doubled after eight weeks, the study found.

Another 45 people were given 50,000 IU of vitamin D2 every two weeks. The researchers found that their levels also went up, but not quite as much.

"Vitamin D2 is effective in raising [vitamin D] levels when given in physiologic and pharmacologic doses and is a simple method to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency," Holick said. "While treating and preventing vitamin D deficiency, these large doses of vitamin D2 do not lead to vitamin D toxicity."

The U.S. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that you always talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on vitamin D.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, Oct. 26, 2009

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