Vitamin D has been making headlines as nutritionists tell the general public that consumers need to make a more conscious effort to include it in their diets due to its health benefits. A recent study led by a researcher from the University of Turku, Finland, and published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that a low vitamin D intake during childhood is associated with a higher risk of sub-clinical atherosclerosis in adulthood.
Atherosclerosis is caused by cholesterol accumulation in the artery, which can lead to inflammation and blocked arteries. This chronic disease can go undetected and consequently untreated for decades.
The study involved a large sampling of the population studying health effects of vitamin D over a long period of time. The study was initiated in 1980, when researchers measured the vitamin D levels of more than 2,000 young people in Finland, ages three to 18 years old. The same subjects were examined 27 years later, at ages 30 to 45, to measure carotid intima-thickness. The scientists also took into account other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, physical activity and diet.
Subjects with vitamin D levels in the lowest quartile in childhood were at significantly higher risk of IMT as adults. Vitamin levels below 43 nmol/L) were at significantly higher risk of IMT as adults. Current U.S. guidelines suggest optimal levels of vitamin D in childhood is 50 nmol/L.
The study indicated children at high risk of developing vitamin D deficiency as those whose diet is poor in sources of vitamin D as well as children who do not have adequate sunlight exposure.
Lead author Markus Juonala, professor of internal medicine at the University of Turku said in an interview on the Education News website, “Earlier studies have shown that vitamin D inhibits vascular calcification. It is also a potent immune modulator. There’s a lot of data showing that vitamin D insufficiency is bad for health, “ said Juonala.
Overall, the authors concluded that low vitamin D levels in childhood were associated with increased carotid IMT in adulthood and further, that this association is independent of conventional cardiovascular risk factors. The study further states, “Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are highly prevalent among children worldwide.”
The recently released Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report for its 2015 recommendations listed vitamin D, alongside other nutrients, as one that is under-consumed and deemed a “shortfall nutrient.”
Of these shortfall nutrients, vitamin D was called out as a “nutrient of public health concern” because under consumption has been linked in the scientific literature to adverse health outcomes.
Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, eggs fall into the category of a naturally occurring source of vitamin D. One large egg, according to USDA, contains 41 IU of vitamin D.
While functionality and flavor are primary considerations for formulators using eggs in applications the nutrient profile and contribution of individual ingredients can be a concern as well. Particularly when formulators are looking at creating a breakfast sandwich for example, to fit consumer demand for quick and easy handheld meals they can eat on the go, protein choice and nutritional profile become more important. Real eggs are a great choice.
Juonala M, Voipio A, Pahkala K et al. “Childhood 25-OH Vitamin D Levels and Carotid Intima-media Thickness in Adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab; February 10, 2015, doi 10.1210/jc.2014-3944.