HEALTH ALERT: Supplements 'Beneficial' for Vitamin D-deficient Ballet Dancers

December 1, 2013 7:36 AM

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It is widely known that a lack of sunlight can sometimes cause a deficiency in vitamin D. But how does a lack of this vitamin affect athletes who train indoors, especially during the winter months? To find out, researchers in the UK studied vitamin D-deficient ballet dancers and observed whether supplementation helped.

The study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, was conducted through a collaboration between researchers at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), the University of Wolverhampton and dancers at the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

These three institutions are founding partners of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS).

To conduct their study, the team split 24 elite classical ballet dancers into two groups. During the 4-month study, one group took oral supplementation of vitamin D3 to the tune of 2,000 IU per day, while a control group did not take any supplements.

Isometric muscular strength and vertical jump height were measured at the start and end of the study. Additionally, the in-house medical team recorded any injuries the dancers experienced.

The researchers found that the dancers who took vitamin D supplements showed greater improvements in muscle strength and vertical performance, while also experiencing fewer injuries, compared with the control group.

"Vitamin D is important for bone development and has a wide range of functions. In a deficient state, dancers are at increased risk of bone injuries, and this latest research indicates an increased risk of muscle injury, which can be detrimental to their health and their careers."

A byproduct of cholesterol functions like the hormone estrogen to fuel the growth and spread of the most common types of breast cancers, researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute report.

The researchers also found that anti-cholesterol drugs such as statins appear to diminish the effect of this estrogen-like molecule.

Published in the Nov. 29, 2013, edition of the journal Science, the findings are early, using mouse models and tumour cells. But the research for the first time explains the link between high cholesterol and breast cancer, especially in post-menopausal women, and suggests that dietary changes or therapies to reduce cholesterol may also offer a simple, accessible way to reduce breast cancer risk.

"A lot of studies have shown a connection between obesity and breast cancer, and specifically that elevated cholesterol is associated with breast cancer risk, but no mechanism has been identified," said senior author Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke.

"What we have now found is a molecule -- not cholesterol itself, but an abundant metabolite of cholesterol -- called 27HC that mimics the hormone estrogen and can independently drive the growth of breast cancer."

A new study suggests that thousands of men seek care in U.S. emergency rooms each year for the painful condition known as priapism -- an erection that lasts too long and threatens to permanently harm the penis.

The researchers estimated that it costs $124 million a year on average to treat priapism at hospitals.

"We're not talking about a massive problem, but it's more common than we thought," said study author Dr. Daniel Stein, chief resident with the urology department at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

It's not clear how many of an estimated 10,000 cases annually are due to a side effect of Viagra and similar impotence drugs, but urologists say they've seen very few men suffering from the infamous four-hour-plus erections that TV ads warn about. Sickle cell disease actually may be responsible for a much higher number of cases.

Stein said the researchers launched their study because there's little information about the number of cases of priapism, which has gotten more attention in recent years because of the warnings related to impotence drugs.

Priapism refers to an abnormal erection in which the blood that engorges the penis fails to drain out, Stein said. Blood stagnates in the penis, and tissue begins to die because it's not getting fresh oxygen.

"The mood is gone, but the reaction is still there," he said. "It's remarkably painful. All men coming in with priapism are unhappy about it."


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