Today’s Headlines: Vitamin D, Allergy Pills and Ebola

Low vitamin D levels linked to disease in two big studies: New research suggests that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to die from cancer and heart disease, although researchers are unsure whether “low levels are a cause of disease or simply an indicator of behaviors that contribute to poor health.” Vitamin D can be produced by the body through exposure to sunlight or can be obtained from certain foods including fish, eggs, fortified dairy and mushrooms and kale. Smoking, obesity and inflammation can all lower blood levels of vitamin D. The new research, which included data from over a million people, found that “adults with lower levels of the vitamin in their systems had a 35% increased risk of death from heart disease, 14% greater likelihood of death from cancer, and a greater mortality risk overall.” However, researchers cautioned that there is still not enough evidence to recommend that everyone take a vitamin D supplement, and they encouraged people to get what they need from food and sunlight. (The New York Times)

FDA approves under-the-tongue pill for grass allergy: “Just in time for spring, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new pill that people can put under their tongues to fight grass allergies.” The tablet, Oralair, is composed of five different types of grass that frequently cause allergies, and is the first therapy for this condition that can be taken under the tongue. It has been in use in Europe for several years. Patients would start taking it for four months before grass pollen season starts. However, “the treatment can, in rare cases, cause a severe immune reaction so patients take the first dose in the doctor’s office under medical supervision.” (NBC News)

Ebola outbreak causing panic in West Africa: “The rising death toll and the wide spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has sparked fear across the region with at least 80 already having died from the nearly always fatal virus.” According to the World Health Organization, as many as 125 people in three different African countries are thought to have come down with the highly contagious disease, which causes a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches and sometimes severe internal and external bleeding. Ebola, which has no vaccine and no cure, is almost always fatal and is “one of the most contagious viral diseases known.” While outbreaks have surfaced in central African countries every several years, this is the first time there has been an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. (USA Today)