Men who maintain low levels of vitamin D may have increased risk of chronic headache, a new Finnish study warns.
The research team from University of Eastern Finland analyzed data from around 2,600 Finnish males from ages 42 to 60, who provided blood samples and answered questionnaires delving on the frequency of their headaches. The subjects were part of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, which assessed risk factors for heart disease and studied the men from 1984 to 1989.
The study found that almost 70 percent of the male subjects had vitamin D levels in the blood that are below 50 nanomoles per liter, generally deemed the threshold for vitamin D deficiency. Chronic headache happening every week at the least was reported by 250 males — all having lower levels of the nutrient than others.
Poor vitamin D status is a notable concern in Nordic countries such as Finland, as they are located farther north and experience less sun exposure that the body demands in order to naturally synthesize vitamin D.
The study participants were divided into four groups based on the blood vitamin D levels. Men with the lowest levels (below 28.9 nmol/L) had a twofold increased risk of frequent headaches versus those with the highest levels (above 55 nmol/L). Men who were tested outside the summer months of June to September — a time when the average blood levels of the vitamin are definitely higher thanks to ultraviolet-B radiation — revealed more headaches.
The research, however, was done at a single period, which makes it difficult to tell if the low vitamin D or the headaches came first, but since it was conducted in Finland, it can be concluded that people generally have less sun exposure and that their frequent headaches are unlikely to be rooted in a mere lack of outdoor time (to enjoy sunlight), according to the team.
It also remains to be seen if the findings are also applicable to women.
No scientific proof of the benefits and potential adverse effects of long-term vitamin D use in higher doses exists yet. The same university is currently conducting the Finnish Vitamin D Trial, a five-year endeavor that investigates the effects of high everyday vitamin D doses on disease development and risk factors. The trial provides its participants either 40 or 80 micrograms of vitamin D supplement each day.
The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
A separate study showed that maintaining high vitamin D levels can help prevent and treat metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that occurs in over 25 percent of adult populations worldwide and serves as key to chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Another benefit was the improvement in the balance of gut bacteria or the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the intestine.
This mice study is currently being validated to see if the same effects can be seen in humans, who are typically advised to have plenty of sun exposure or take oral vitamin D to reap the nutrient’s benefits.