In April of 2014, the Vitamin D Council attended the first Vitamin D and Human Health conference in London, England. It was a great opportunity to meet vitamin D researchers, university students studying vitamin D, and some members of the Vitamin D Council.
The conference took place April 23rd – 25th at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, a part of Queen Mary University of London. Over the course of the three days, prominent researchers gave presentations on new research and synthesized evidence for vitamin D in particular areas of health. Additional presentations were given during poster sessions.
The presentations focused on research concerning vitamin D’s roles throughout the course of human life. The sessions began with talks on the evolutionary perspective of vitamin D, vitamin D’s effects on genetics, and vitamin D’s role during pregnancy and early life. The presentations then moved on to discussions on vitamin D and various health outcomes (i.e. diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc.). Finally, the conference concluded with talks on vitamin D and mental health and mortality.
Both the oral and poster presentations presented intriguing data and led to interesting discussions between vitamin D researchers from various disciplines (note: The findings below are from unpublished data and are therefore general recaps of the studies).
Dr. Elina Hyppönen presented data from a new study on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and risk of infection among mothers. In their study, Dr. Hyppönen and her colleagues analyzed data from many pregnancies and found that women who supplemented with vitamin D had a significantly reduced risk of infection.
In another talk, Dr. Matthias Wjst presented a historical perspective on vitamin D and allergies. He hypothesized that giving high doses of vitamin D in infancy might lead to an increased risk of allergies. Dr. Wjst hypothesized this because prior to the introduction of cod liver oil as a treatment for the rickets epidemic during the Industrial Revolution, there were no reported cases of allergies.
Immediately following Dr. Wjst’s talk, Dr. Carlos Camargo presented recent research on the relationship between vitamin D status during pregnancy and risk of peanut or tree-nut allergy in childhood. He and his colleagues found that vitamin D status and prevalence of these allergies formed a U-shaped curve, meaning that both very low and very high vitamin D levels led to an increased risk of allergy.
Another highlight from the oral presentations was Dr. Reinhold Vieth on pharmacology of vitamin D. In his presentation, Dr. Vieth made an interesting point that infrequent, high doses of vitamin D supplements that are meant to quickly raise vitamin D levels may cause the body to use vitamin D stores at a faster rate than it would if given low doses more frequently. He concluded that vitamin D supplements should be taken no longer than one month apart.
In the poster presentations, Dr. Cameron Grant and his colleagues presented results from a randomized controlled trial on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and the use of antibiotics during infancy. The research team administered either vitamin D or a placebo to the mothers during pregnancy and the infants from birth until six months old. They found that a higher dose of vitamin D during pregnancy and from birth until six months old reduced the number of children who were prescribed antibiotics.
The Vitamin D and Human Health conference was a well-organized, informative meeting for vitamin D researchers and enthusiasts, alike. There is much uncertainty in the field of vitamin D research. This conference allowed for researchers from different disciplines to educate others on vitamin D in particular areas of health and it created a space for open discussion on the current state of vitamin D research and where the research is headed.
The conference organizers have yet to announce details on the next Vitamin D and Human Health conference. Until then, we are excited for new vitamin D research and the discussions that it continues to spark.