Do You Have a Vitamin D-lemma?

 

      While some of the hype of the media has declined over the last couple years as their attention has turned elsewhere, the scientific research on Vitamin D continues, and it continues to build to the same conclusions: we need a lot of vitamin D; when we have enough, our health is much better; and the majority of us don't have enough in our bodies.  

            Vitamin D is unique among the vitamins in a couple ways.  First, it is the only vitamin that can be manufactured by the body.  All we need is some good sunshine on some bare skin (more about this in a moment).  And second, it is the only vitamin that also functions as a hormone (and while it would be fun to explore how hormones and vitamins function, there isn't space for that here... bummer).  It is also a tremendously varied vitamin, in terms of its functions in the body, though several other vitamins share that trait.  For example, most of us know that it is very important for building strong bones, but it also boosts our immune systems, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke and diabetes, reduces the risk of getting numerous cancers, helps prevent pre-term labor and premature births, helps maintain good cognition as we age, lowers the likelihood of depression, and helps prevent periodontal disease, as well as having many other benefits.  In fact, enough research has been done on vitamin D that it is understood to lower the risk of all causes of mortality when one has adequate levels in the blood.  There aren't a lot of compounds that can make that claim.

            But most of us (research suggests that the figure may be as high as 80% of Americans) don't have optimal levels in our bloodstreams.  If sunshine on our shoulders turns into vitamin D, how can that be?  Well, it's complex...

            The amount of vitamin D our bodies need can very depending on the time of year, our skin color (the lighter our skin, the better our absorption), where we live, how much sun exposure we get (people who live north of Atlanta rarely get enough), our weight, health conditions (liver and/or kidney conditions can be large factors), our body's quality of digestion/absorption, and how often we exercise (the greater frequency and the more vigorously, the better).  As we age, we become less and less efficient at converting vitamin D to a form the body can use.  Those who are obese, overweight, or have undergone gastric bypass surgery are more at risk.  Individuals with a BMI of 30 or greater typically have lower blood levels of vitamin D, and the levels decrease as obesity and body fat increase.  Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it actually gets absorbed into fat cells and held there-out of the bloodstream. Fewer fat cells = more vitamin D in the bloodstream.

            Plus, we've all been told a zillion times to wear sunblock when we're out in the sun.  And if that sunblock blocks UVB rays (the vast majority do), the body's ability to produce vitamin D from sunshine is severely compromised.  But if we don't wear sunblock, it can create other major problems:  premature aging and skin cancer, for example.  So what are we to do-especially this time of yearwhen those of us in the northern ¾ of the US have no chance of getting enough sun?

            Supplement with vitamin D-but I bet you had already come up with that answer.  Actually, even pediatric docs are now strongly recommending that children take extra vitamin D.  We adults have been under that recommendation for some time.  And the pressure continues to increase on the FDA to increase the DV for vitamin D.  

                                                       
 

             It's very difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.  The richest sources are fish (wild salmon has 100 IU per ounce) and fortified cereals, juices, and dairy (milk has 100 IU per glass, but I don't recommend it, unless you get it organic and non-homogenized)-though "fortified" usually just means that a cheap synthetic form has been sprayed on, which raises the issue of quality and efficacy.

Because we're not getting what we need in our diet, at least 1000 IU per day of vitamin D is actually necessary to maintain health blood levels of the nutrient.  It's obvious that vitamin D should be a part of everyone's supplement foundation.  Are you getting enough?  And how do you know?

The best way to determine your vitamin D status is to have blood drawn for a Vitamin D,25-hydroxy, or D,25-OH (calcidol) blood test.  According to Dr. Brouse and a number of other respected sources, the blood levels for vitamin D are:    

 0 - 32 ng/ml              Very deficient

            33 - 50 ng/ml             Marginal

            51 - 74 ng/ml             Acceptable

            75 - 125 ng/ml           Ideal

            Testing at the end of summer and winter helps to keep the levels optimal-if, of course, you act on the results!  An average of how much vitamin D we should take daily follows (also from Dr. Brouse's newsletter):

            0 - 4 years                     600 IU

            5 - 21 years                 1000 IU                                              

            22 - 50 years               1200 IU                                               

            51+ years                     5000 to 10,000 IU

            It is possible to take too much (which is why it's good to have your blood levels checked), but toxic levels, above 200 ng/ml are very difficult to achieve.  

            Yet another complication is that there are two forms of vitamin D: D2 (also called ergocalciferol) and D3 (also called cholecalciferol).  For most of the time since vitamin D was discovered (generally attributed as 1922), the two forms have been considered to be equivalent.  But more recent research is revealing that there is actually a significant difference between the two.  Vitamin D2 does not occur naturally.  It was created in a lab and patented not long after the discovery of vitamin D.  When our skin converts sunlight to vitamin D, it is D3.  When we eat oily fish (the richest natural source), we're consuming D3.  D3 is several times more active in the body, is more stable and long-lasting, is better utilized by the body, and is more potent.  Some studies are even showing that D2 can have some toxic effects.  So, of course, the form Shaklee uses is D3. And since vitamin D is one of the least expensive of the vitamins, combined with the comprehensive and amazing benefits of taking it, there just aren't a lot of good reasons not to be supplementing with D3.

 

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Vita-D3 is on sale!  $.50 off in February!

 

Vitamin D Pill Variability Hints at Poor Quality Control

            The vitamin D that people buy in a pharmacy or health food store may not deliver what it promises. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, purchased 55 bottles of vitamin D3 from 12 different suppliers. The labeled doses ranged from 1,000 to 10,000 IU per pill, but when the scientists had them analyzed they discovered a big discrepancy in potency.

            Some pills had only 9% of the labeled dose while others actually contained extra, up to 140% of the amount specified. Even pills from the same lot varied from 57% to 138%. These were presumably manufactured on the same production line at the same time, suggesting that quality control was abysmal. Because the manufacturers of vitamins and other dietary supplements are not closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration, this worrisome discovery could just be the tip of the iceberg.  [JAMA Internal Medicine, online, Feb. 11, 2013]


 
Note:  How many times have we seen this kind of report-for lots of products?  It's one of the reasons Shaklee is such a great company to know-they are trustworthy.  There just aren't many companies out there that we can say that about.

 

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

            People with more vitamin D in their bloodstreams are less likely to die or develop heart disease, fractures or respiratory complications.  How much vitamin D is optimal?  Nutrition experts have been debating this issue for years.

            Epidemiologists in England conducted a prospective study in which they measured blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D in more than 14,000 middle-aged people.  During 13 years of follow-up, the researchers found that vitamin D levels predicted subsequent mortality and illness, including respiratory disease, cardiovascular complications and bone fractures. Those with the lowest risk of dying during follow-up were individuals who started the study with blood levels of at least 36 ng/ml.

            Although previous studies have hinted that too much vitamin D might be risky, this study turned up no evidence of increased mortality at high concentrations of the vitamin.      [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov., 2014]