Monday, June 15, 2015

Loyola Receives NIH Grant to Study Vitamin D Deficiency in African Populations

Research to evaluate nutrient's role in bone density and heart disease

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine have received a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study vitamin D deficiency in people of African descent.

Researchers will evaluate the relation between low vitamin D levels and risks for certain chronic diseases, including osteoporosis and heart disease.

Evidence from numerous previous studies is "inconclusive and needs to be studied further,” said Ramon Durazo, PhD, principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology. "This grant will allow us to take a more in-depth look at the role this nutrient plays in a specific group of people who are at risk for these conditions."

The study will include about 2,500 people, ages 25-45, from Ghana, South Africa, Seychelles, Jamaica and metropolitan Chicago. Researchers will determine whether lower vitamin D levels in African and African-descent populations compared with whites should be considered abnormal, or whether this disparity represents an ethnic-specific trait. The study also will evaluate whether vitamin D deficiency is related to bone density and factors that contribute to heart disease, including obesity, high blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

In the United States, African-Americans have been reported to have much lower vitamin D levels. "This is currently thought to be due to their darker skin color, which impairs the ability to utilize the sun for the production of the nutrient," said Pauline Camacho, MD, director of Loyola University Health System's Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease Center. “Also, this group often has a higher body mass index. This could play a role in the deficiency, as vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin."

Some researchers believe low levels may contribute to obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Sampling African-origin populations across a range of latitudes, calcium intakes, diet patterns and lifestyles will enable researchers to help define the optimal level of vitamin D in the multi-ethnic U.S. population.

The Departments of Preventive Medicine & Epidemiology and Endocrinology will collaborate in the study. Co-investigators are Camacho, Richard S. Cooper, MD; Holly Kramer, MD, MPH; and Amy Luke, PhD.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.