Health Headlines Explained: Vitamin D, Seasonal Affective Disorder & Medication Effectiveness

Thursday 6th November

We bring you the explanations behind the latest health headlines including vitamin D deficiency in children, Seasonal Affective Disorder and how the time you take your medications can make them more effective.

Children suffering Vitamin D deficiency triples- The Telegraph

What’s the problem? The number of children with a vitamin D deficiency has increased by three times in the last four years.

What you need to know: Vitamin D deficiency is related to a number of conditions, including rickets in children and osteoporosis and cancer in adults. The deficiency is already leading to an increase in these conditions. For example, rickets - a disease more commonly associated with the Victorian period - has almost tripled in the past four years. However, some of the rise could also be attributed to the increased testing of vitamin D levels in patients when in hospital.

Vitamin D is important for good health and sources include red meat, eggs and oily fish, but the ultraviolet B radiation in sunlight is our main source. In the winter months, the combination of shorter daylight hours, colder weather and reduction in ultraviolet B in the sun’s rays means we receive less vitamin D. However, this is not just a seasonal problem - and the rise in deficiency has been linked to increasingly indoor lifestyles that both adults and children are adopting.

A government guideline is that all children between the age of six months and five years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D. Other at risk groups include the elderly, pregnant women and breastfeeding women - however, since we all need vitamin D to be healthy, you may want to consider a supplement whatever your age, especially if you have darker skin or spend a long time indoors.

Find out more about Vitamin D

Seasonal Affective Disorder: 1 in 3 people suffer from SAD - The Independent

What’s the problem? A new report has shown that Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects one in three people: far more than originally thought.

What you need to know: Those who suffer from SAD find that during the winter months they experience a range of symptoms, including lethargy, anxiety and low self-esteem. This has been known for a while, but this study shows that more people are suffering from it than previously estimated, with women 40% more likely to be affected than men.

Recent studies show that SAD is caused by a lack of serotonin being produced by the brain in winter. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines say that SAD should be treated in a similar way to depression - with cognitive behaviour therapy and antidepressants. Another treatment option is to use a light-box, which is a special lamp that simulates the sunlight we miss out on in winter.

If you think you may be suffering from SAD, the best thing to do is visit your GP. They will discuss your symptoms with you and help decide on the best course of action.

Have a read of our guide to SAD to find out more about the condition.

Drugs may work better depending on the time of day - The Telegraph

What’s the problem? Studies have shown that taking medications at a certain time of day makes them more effective.

What you need to know: We know that certain medications work best at different times of day - but until now it’s not been clear why this is not the same for all types of medication. A team of researchers at Pennsylvania University has worked out the time of day that genes in individual organs of the body are most active.  The research suggests that we should take medication at the time when our organs are most active. For the heart, this is in the morning whilst for the lungs, it is around lunchtime – with the liver and kidneys being most active after 6pm.

However, before this advice is acted upon, more trials and research needs to be done. For the time being, it’s best to take medication as directed by your doctor. If you have any queries, talk to them, they will be able to help.

Read more about why drugs may work better at certain times of the day.

 

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