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New Research Links Vitamin D Deficiency to Heart Disease Risk

PORTLAND, Maine (January 14, 2008) Framingham Heart Study researchers report in Circulation: The Journal of the American Heart Association that a deficiency of vitamin D, a problem for many people in low-light locations like New England, appears to be related to an increased risk of heart disease. This is a new finding about vitamin D, an important vitamin well known for its role in building strong bones. "The link being drawn between vitamin D deficiency and heart disease risk is yet another reason to look at milk, which provides a great source of vitamin D in the diet," said Oakhurst dietitian Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, LD.

About Vitamin D

According to Stuppy, vitamin D is a nutrient we will be hearing a lot more about. Relatively recent research has identified a number of body tissues and functions that depend on vitamin D. "We have long known the relationship between vitamin D and bone health. Vitamin D helps the body take in calcium and put it into bones. We are uncovering other functions of vitamin D as well, such as reduced risk of some cancers and autoimmune diseases. Since vitamin D deficiency can cause muscle weakness and pain, adequate vitamin D can also help reduce the risk of falling which can cause fractures in older adults," said Stuppy. "We have known about the benefit of adequate vitamin D and calcium levels relative to blood pressure, but this recent relationship to heart disease appears to go beyond that connection," added Stuppy.

Known as the "Sunshine Vitamin," vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by our bodies through sun exposure. It is found in milk, fish and only a few other foods. According to Stuppy, vitamin D deficiency among New England residents is a serious problem because of lower sun exposure much of the year and an inadequate intake of milk. From about October to April, residents of northern climates do not get sufficient sunlight to produce vitamin D, leaving food and supplements to do the job. Many fall short of the recommended daily intake level of 400 IU (International Units) of vitamin D, and 800-1000 IUs for a person over 50. An 8-ounce glass of milk provides 100 IUs of vitamin D. "Milk is really an easy way to boost vitamin D levels as well as calcium," said Stuppy.

Nine Essential Nutrients

Milk provides a big nutritional punch, with only modest calories. Besides calcium and vitamin D, milk also contains protein, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus, riboflavin and niacin. Oakhurst Nu-trish milk containing probiotics (active cultures) may also benefit persons with food allergies or lactose sensitivity. In addition, probiotics may improve immune system function, meaning fewer illnesses. These cultures benefit intestinal function as well, especially following antibiotic treatment. To meet calcium needs, national dietary guidelines recommend at least 3 servings of dairy every day for children, 4 per day for teens, and 5 per day for persons over 50. According to Stuppy, parents can encourage their children to drink milk by being role models and making milk available at every meal and during snacktime. For fun and added nutrients, combine milk and fruit in a smoothie. Milk can also be used to make hot cereals, creamed soups or pudding, or added to cold cereals for breakfast or snacks.

About Oakhurst Dietitian Pam Stuppy

Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, LD is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She is also the dietitian for Phillips Exeter Academy. Pam provides Oakhurst consumers with research-based information about the health and nutrition benefits of milk.

About Oakhurst

Oakhurst is Northern New England's largest, independent dairy company, with three generations of commitment to the health and wellbeing of the community and the environment. For 87 years, the Bennett family has stood behind every glass of milk, just another reason to choose the Natural Goodness of Maine. Oakhurst contributes 10% of profits to organizations that promote healthy kids and a healthy environment. For more information about dairy and health visit www.oakhurstdairy.com. For specific questions, email Pam Stuppy at dietitian@oakhurstdairy.com.

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