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Low Vitamin D Levels May Lengthen Stay on Respiratory Support in ICU

Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of vitamin D to overall health. Now, a recent Harvard Medical school study suggests that vitamin D status at time of admittance may affect how long intensive care unit (ICU) patients have to stay on respiratory support.

Participants in the study included 94 critically ill surgical patients who required 48 hours or more of mechanical ventilation and survived at least 24 hours after respiratory support was removed. The average vitamin D blood level at admission was 16 ng/mL and the average time on ventilation was four days.

The researchers found that every 10 ng/mL increase in vitamin D blood levels was associated with 34% less time on mechanical ventilation. That translates to 2% less time for every 1 ng/mL.

The researchers hypothesized that the correlation between low vitamin D levels and longer times spent on ventilation could potentially be due to respiratory muscle weakness, systemic inflammation, and infections associated with low vitamin D. They cautioned that more studies are necessary to determine the exact association between vitamin D and time spent on mechanical ventilation.

In addition to the Harvard researchers leading the study, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital also took part in the study. It was published online ahead of print on January 6, 2015, in the Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition.

Previous studies have associated vitamin D with reducing the risk of skin damage, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, combating diabetes, and improving age related macular degeneration.

Vitamin D can be found in milk, fortified cereals, fish, and eggs. Your body also processes vitamin D from the sun but it becomes harder for our bodies to process it as we age. A high quality vitamin D supplement is always a good option if you feel that you’re not getting enough through diet and sun.

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