(And 5 Ways to Get It)
This is a pretty comprehensive story about Vitamin D. This sun-made vitamin has gotten much press lately indicating that it may be a wonder-supplement that can help combat everything from cancer to obesity. The Vitamin D story is important for everyone to know, but certainly for the elderly, for those with dark skin, and you summer sun worshipers too.
You may have noticed a plethora of articles written over the last couple of years touting the marvels of Vitamin D — indeed, the bulk of this post, particularly the video of internationally acclaimed Vitamin D expert Dr. Michael Holick (below), underscores this view.
However, a recent study casts a cloud of confusion over what has been a near ubiquitous view of the necessity of relatively (by historical standards) high doses of Vitamin D. I refer to a recent report released from the Institute of Medicine (“IOM”) that sets new RDAs (recommended daily averages) for Vitamin D and calcium.
The IOM report has something in it for both those who tout and decry the benefits of Vitamin D.
Two New York newspapers that reviewed this report aptly demonstrate the arm wrestling match:
On one side, The New York Times headline concludes, “Extra Vitamin D and Calcium Aren’t Necessary, Report Says.” (Which gives the wrong impression because the report from the IOM increased the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin D).
Representing the contrary view, The Wall Street Journal’s clarion call was, “Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes.”
Confused yet? Is Vitamin D the Real Deal?
In this article published by the Huffington Post, Dr. Leo Galland dives into the IOM report and presents his readers with his informed insights about what’s really going on. His conclusion:
“The bottom line: The IOM report does not advise against Vitamin D supplementation and in fact raises both the recommended daily allowance and tolerable upper limits of Vitamin D… So, when it comes to Vitamin D, one size doesn’t fit all and supplementation should be based on individual needs.”
As an example of individualization, Dr. Galland cites a little known peccadillo of Vitamin D.
Apparently, there’s an enzyme in our bodies that deactivates Vitamin D as its levels rise. The effect this winds up having is to more dramatically reduce the Vitamin D in a person who is exposed to high Vitamin D supplementation or sunlight, and subsequently stops supplementation or exposure to sunlight.
“The result is that people taking higher doses of Vitamin D supplements may not have a predictable, stable increase in their Vitamin D levels, and people who get a lot of sun exposure in summer, but take no supplements in winter may have a lower Vitamin D level in winter than people who don’t get a lot of summer sun.
Dr. Galland’s conclusions are not surprising to those who have followed the Vitamin D story, for it’s a compelling one, as you’re about to learn should you continue reading this post and watch the long, but entertaining and informative video (below).
A Cancer and Heart Disease Fighter?
If Dr. Galland sounds like a strong proponent of Vitamin D, consider what Dr. Soram Khalsa wrote in this article about the Vitamin D-shortage epidemic (and the resulting deleterious effects) in this country today:
“As a board certified internist, I have chosen, for the last 30 years, to take a personalized approach in my practice of integrative medicine. I have worked with literally hundreds of herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements, to help my patients, often when drugs did not work. In all this time, I have not seen one nutritional supplement that has the power to affect human health as much as vitamin D. This is because Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin — it is a hormone that has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body.
“… countless times I have had to deliver or discuss with a patient their sad and possibly terminal diagnosis. Diseases like cancer and heart disease are at best life altering, and most times life threatening. When I have this kind of difficult conversation with a patient, I often reflect that if their vitamin D level had been normal for the previous many years, maybe they would never have developed this disease.
“Ideally, your health care provider is your partner in exploring your vitamin D status, but patients usually do not want to visit their doctor just to ask for a vitamin D level, and many doctors are not yet up to date on the importance of vitamin D. If you use the at-home test kit and your blood level of vitamin D is low, I would encourage you to discuss this information with your physician.”
Sounds convincing, yes?
Well, there’s plenty more. Consider the following core dump of most of the benefits you’re likely to discover about Vitamin D, much of it presented by Dr. Michael Holick in his video below.
Cruise through the list and see if there’s anything there that’s meaningful to you, a loved one or friend.
After the video, I continue with the “Five Ways to Get Vitamin D”.
30 Reasons to Take Vitamin D
(My appreciation to one of my favorite health bloggers, Dr. Ben Kim for most of the list below.)
- Vitamin D is essential to building and maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles.
- Without vitamin D, calcium can’t be absorbed. But if you get enough vitamin D, it can help you avoid osteoporosis, bone fractures and falling, which is a cause of morbidity among the elderly.
- There is a strong association between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of requiring a C-section.
- In addition to taking a multivitamin (typically containing 400 IU of vitamin D) and getting some vitamin D from meals, pregnant women should be taking a minimum of 1000 IU of vitamin D per day.
- If you give lactating women between 4000 and 6000 IUs of vitamin D per day, through breastfeeding alone, their babies can get all of the vitamin D that they need.
- Infants need vitamin D at birth.
- There aren’t too many foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D. Oily fish like wild salmon contain about 500 to 1000 IUs per serving (3.5 ounces), so you would have to eat salmon almost every day to barely get enough vitamin D to meet all of your needs.
- Wild salmon get their vitamin D from the food chain, where it’s abundant. Food pellets that are fed to farmed salmon don’t contain vitamin D, so farmed salmon typically provide 100 to 250 IU of vitamin D per serving, which is only 10 to 25% of the vitamin D found in wild salmon.
- In the summer, UV-B rays from the sun can create all of the vitamin D that we need if we get some exposure on our skin.
- In the winter, the further away we get from the equator, the less chance we have of being exposed to UV-B rays to make vitamin D in our skin. For example, in Boston, you can make all the vitamin D that you need in the spring, summer, and fall months, but from about November to February, you can’t make any at all from sunlight exposure.
- Above 35 degrees north latitude and below 35 degrees south, you can’t make any vitamin D from sunlight exposure from November to February.
- Excessive exposure to sunlight increases risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, which is relatively easy to detect and treat if detected early enough.
- Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will decrease your ability to make vitamin D via sunlight exposure by 99%.
- The key to responsible use of sunlight to ensure optimal vitamin D status is to make sure that you don’t get sunburned.
- Getting enough sunlight (1 MED) to create a light pinkness in skin tone creates around 20,000 IU of vitamin D in your system.
- Aging decreases our ability to produce vitamin D via sunlight. A 70-year old has a 70% reduced ability to produce vitamin D via sunlight compared to a 20-year old. So the older we get, the more likely it is that we will need to get some of our vitamin D from supplementation.
- Obesity increases the need for vitamin D intake and/or creation via sunlight because storage of vitamin D in fat cells reduces the amount of vitamin D that’s available to the rest of the body.
- You need vitamin D to effectively lose weight. Your insulin works better, and vitamin D helps you lose belly fat. Diabetes is also related to low vitamin D levels.
- For most people and locations, during the summer, a good amount of sunlight exposure is 5 to 15 minutes on the arms and legs, two to three times a week. After this amount of time, sunscreen can be used to help prevent premature aging and increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.
- People with darker skin tone need significantly more sunlight than Caucasians to produce optimal vitamin D levels. This is particularly true if you live much North, say, of Atlanta AND if you’re a woman over 45 years of age.
- 21. The best blood test to assess vitamin D status is 25 hydroxy D.
- Dr. Holick believes that most people (adults and kids) should be supplementing with a minimum of 1000 IU of vitamin D per day in addition to the vitamin D found in a multivitamin and a couple servings of foods that contain vitamin D.
- Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common among all races, even in the summer.
- Many people that exhibit symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia may actually have osteomalacia, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency.
- Higher levels of vitamin D (within the normal range) are associated with optimal lower extremity function (healthy bones and muscles in your legs).
- Optimal vitamin D status reduces risk of fracture as you age.
- You want your 25 hydroxy D level to be above 30 ng/ml. The optimal range is likely between 50 and 60 ng/ml.
- For every 100 IU of vitamin D that you ingest, you raise your blood level by 1 ng/ml.
- Optimal vitamin D status is associated with a decreased risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers.
- Vitamin D improves blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
Dr. Michael Holick: Diagnosis and Treatment of Vitamin D
(For more information on Dr. Michael Holick and his research on vitamin D, check out VitaminDHealth.org)
So now that – presumably – you’re convinced that Vitamin D is important for your health, here are
Five Ways to Get Vitamin D
- 15 Minutes of Sun 3 Times Per Week
You can get 10-15 minutes of high-noon sun exposure in warmer climates a few times a week. In the South you can do this all year long; but in the North it will work only in the summer months. But this is unrealistic for those who already wear sunscreen all day, or have been warned to stay out of the sun by their doctors.
- Fatty Fish and Cod Liver Oil
If you are one of those people who have been warned to stay out of the sun, another good natural source of Vitamin D is fatty fish, like salmon and in cod liver oil.
- Fortified Dairy Products
You also can get Vitamin D in fortified dairy products; however, there are only 100 units of Vitamin D per cup, so children and most adults would need at least four cups of dairy products per day. (Do you really want to ingest that much diary? Go for #5)
- Multivitamin Supplements
Although it varies by brand and the amount taken, most multivitamins have a substantial amount of vitamin D.
- Vitamin D Supplements
A good target is to take 1000 to 2000 international units of Vitamin D supplements every day. D3 is considered more potent and longer lasting, but if unavailable, both D2 and D3 are acceptable. All versions are cheap and side effects are very rare.
I take Pro Health’s Vitamin D3.
Well, if you’ve stayed with me this long, you must be either my mother or an endurance mentat, but I thank you, nonetheless.
Published on December 17, 2010