In the June 2006 InFocus publication that I received, I found this item on page 6:
Vitamin D deficiency may affect over one billion people
Clinicians estimate that millions of people around the world are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. Now a prominent European clinician has called for international action to address the problems which may lead to increased osteoporosis, cancer, and other diseases.
Speaking at the European Congress of Endocrinology, in Glasgow, Scotland, Professor Roger Bouillon of the University of Leuven called for concerted research projects to back up the animal work linking vitamin D insufficiency with global health risks, such as osteoporotic fractures, cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Professor Bouillon stated, "We already know that insufficient vitamin D increases the risk for osteoporosis, falls and fractures. This is preventable by additional calcium and vitamin D intake (400-800 IU/d) for the elderly people."
"There is now, however, new and growing evidence that mild vitamin D deficiency is also associated with more tuberculosis; and some epidemiological studies suggest an increased risk for colon, breast, and prostate cancer, and also autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes. Animal data clearly support an essential role of vitamin D metabolites in the regulation of cell proliferation (cancer) and the immune system (autoimmune diseases and infection, such as tuberculosis)."
Vitamin D status can be readily estimated by measurements of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and optimal health requires at least 20 ng 25(OH)D/ml. By this definition, half of the people over 60 in Europe alone are already deficient. In some populations, this figure is even higher.
As this insufficiency of vitamin D is a worldwide problem, we need large scale prospective studies to prove that improved vitamin D intake translates into less cancer, autoimmune diseases, and better global health status. If such studies show the expected beneficial effects suggested byt animal studies, then more than a billion people of all ages worldwide would need to increase their vitamin D intake -- through nutrition, proper supplements, or judicious exposure to sunlight.
Adapted from "Over One Billion People May Suffer From Vitamin D Deficiency," Sticking Out Our Necks, Mar/Apr 2006, Mary Shomon