Tag Archives: Vitamin D

Is Vitamin D Supplementation Useless?

SWIMMING AND SUNNING ON THE BEACH AT ROCKY POI...
SWIMMING AND SUNNING ON THE BEACH AT ROCKY POINT PARK - NARA - 546942 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr.  Stephanie Senef, a MIT research scientist recently spoke out against Vitamin D supplementation at a Weston A Price Wise Traditions conference, saying that supplements are “a waste of money.”  I believe she is wrong about supplementation although correct about the sun being a superior source for those lucky enough to live in the right conditions.

Senef believes that the beneficial products of sun exposure occur before you manufacture Vitamin D.  When you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral oil-form vitamin D3 supplements, which are unsulfated. The water soluble pre-vitamin can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated supplement needs LDL ( so-called “bad” cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Dr. Seneff says:

 

“The sulfated form of vitamin D does not work for calcium transport, which I find very intriguing. And in fact, I think it’s the sulfated form for vitamin D that offers the protection from cancer. It strengthens your immune system. It protects you from cardiovascular disease. It’s good for your brain. It helps depression. I think all of those effects of vitamin D are effects of vitamin D sulfate.”

 There are several problems with this.  First, the research on Vitamin D status and cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and other diseases was not performed only on people with sun-induced Vitamin D levels and it is likely that the relatively high levels of 25(OH)D in their blood would not come from sun alone unless they lived in climates south of the US  (and  most were done here.) For instance, in a recent study that I will describe below (video reference at end), pregnant women living in Charleston, SC where the sun shines strongly 325 days a year and the latitude favors the rays of sun that make Vitamin D, were overwhelmingly deficient or insufficient in their Vitamin D levels before supplementation.  Another study on lifeguards in Hawaii found that many had suboptimal blood levels. Between sunscreen or blocking mineral particles in  most skin products and cultural practices of showering frequently, we tend not to manufacture much Vitamin D.  So to get relatively high levels shown in the chart below and at this link,  It is likely that subjects used supplementation although only the resultant blood levels of 25(OH)D were canvassed.

vitamin D Deficiency Diseases by Blood Level

Note that only rickets is prevented with low blood levels of Vitamin D

(To enlarge, see  disease_incidence_prev_chart_101608)

In a recent study at the University of South Carolina medical school, expectant mothers, especially African American mothers, tested as insufficient to deficient in Vitamin D.  At the start of the study, deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D were seen in 94% of the African-American women, 66% of Hispanic women, and 50% of white women who participated..  A select group was prescribed 4000 iu daily of Vitamin D3 in their second and third trimester and that group had 50% fewer adverse events such as to develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or preeclampsia than those taking 400 iu.  They also had fewer preterm births.  It benefited both the mother and baby and researcher Dr.  Carol Wagner felt that in the future higher amounts would test as even better, seeing no problem with 10,000 iu.  In a Norwegian study published in Epidemiology, pregnant women who took vitamin D supplements of 600-800 iu had 27 % lower rates of potentially fatal per-eclampsia.  Doesn’t sound like a waste of money to me!

Reinhold Veith studied research on Vitamin D from the sun and supplementation.  He  found that supplementation in adults below 10,000 iu daily had a pretty flat effect on 25HydroxyD (blood Vitamin D) levels but that higher levels brought D up to levels found by ultraviolet light from the sun or fixtures.  He did find that Vitamin D2 supplementation was less effective at raising blood levels of 25OHD than Vitamin D3, although some researchers dispute this.

I will be the first to say that supplementation alone is not the best way to get Vitamin D. According to researcher Michael Holick, this is difficult: to get it from the sun during late fall to early Spring, you must live south of Atlanta, go out without sunscreen between 11am and 1 pm and not wash it off for 3 days since bacteria on the surface of the skin synthesize it and can be washed off, even with plain water. If your skin is dark, you may need 6 times as much sunlight. How many people can do this?  Sunshine produces more than Vitamin D and Holick believes it is likely that breakdown products from UV and excess Vitamin D that are missing from supplements are useful to the body.  But that is a far cry from calling supplementation useless or a scam.

There are two forms of supplementation: oil and dry based Vitamin D3.  I prescribe dry Vitamin D to clients without gallbladders and the concentrated Biotech dry form to people who need to build up stores rapidly.  Neither form is sulfated, although we do not have evidence that they cannot become sulfated in the human body or in our flora.  Perhaps Dr. Senef’s theory indicates that dry Vitamin D supplements would be better than oil based forms.  However I see clinical results from oil based forms as well.  Cod Liver Oil, proposed by the Weston A. Price Foundation is an oil-based form of Vitamin D.

There is no good evidence that all of our vitamin D should come from Cod Liver oil, although I personally believe some of it should.  To get 10,000 iu via cod liver oil would incur toxic levels of Vitamin A.  Some Vitamin A is probably needed although there is conflicting research on it- given that research is unclear, I stand behind traditional practices.  Carlson’s cod liver oil is closest to the traditional A:D ratio in a commercial oil.   Fermented cod liver oil is possibly superior, but there is no real research and I was unable to get data from the manufacturer Blue Ice, even on the relative levels of Vitamins A and D.  I would have no hesitation to use it for my Omega 3 supplement, adding Vitamin D3 at levels of 10,000 iu, depending upon blood test results.

We have moved far from our equatorial origins and dress ourselves in clothing that usually covers all but 5% of our bodies. Most of us work indoors and are not suntanning at noon, and we shower frequently, washing away the skin bacteria that make the sulfated Vitamin D.  Most facial make-up and skin lotions provide a level of sun blockage even if direct sunscreens are not added.  While doctors used to think that such exposure was sufficient, that was based upon prevention of rickets, which as the chart show requires ridiculously little Vitamin D, and not the other conditions like cancer or heart disease that require higher blood levels.  We know that Vitamin D is a natural hormone necessary for  a broad variety of biological activities.  While getting what sun we can is important, we should not let the optimal be the enemy of the good.

 

Photograph of Cod Liver Oil capsules.
Photograph of Cod Liver Oil capsules. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Nursing

Care of Flicker by Mahalie Stackpole

Vitamin D levels are very important to your personal health as well as that of your baby.  I have previously written about how Vitamin D reduces pre-eclampsia, or toxemia of pregnancy.  Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and infancy prevents childhood Type 1 diabetes.  And low levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy and lactation have caused preclinical rickets which have caused African American women whose skin absorption is lower, to lose custody of children on charges of suspected child abuse.

A South Carolina study of pregnancy complications and Vitamin D  found:

  • The 400 iu level of Vitamin D in a prenatal vitamin was inconsequential
  • 4000 iu of Vitamin D reduced bad pregnancy outcomes by half compared to 400 iu.
  • 4000 iu of Vitamin D is safe in pregnancy
  • Virtually all African American women in sunny SC had serious deficiencies of Vitamin D
  • 30% of all pregnant women in the study were severely deficient

Continue reading Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Nursing

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What is the Right Vitamin D Level?

Vitamin D
Vitamin D

The symptoms of low vitamin D levels are subtle and difficult to distinguish, given that receptors are found in most organ systems in the body and affect genetic transcription in cells. For chronic pain the Mayo clinic suggests that Vitamin D deficiency is the first thing that should be considered. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to depression, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, rickets, periodontal disease, seasonal affective disorder, increased susceptibility to colds and flu, colon cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma, Continue reading What is the Right Vitamin D Level?

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Pregnant Women Should Avoid Antidepressants

Many women wonder if they should take antidepressants while pregnant.  A recent study shows that there are more complications of birth including C-Sections, premature births and induced deliveries.  Paroxetine (Paxil) was associated with twice the rate of congenital heart defects and hypospadias (a penis malformation.)  Tricyclic antidepressants were more strongly associated with malformations and persistent pulmonary hypertension. Continue reading Pregnant Women Should Avoid Antidepressants

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Obesity and Swine Flu: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Flu virus diagramA recent report report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy indicates that 25% of hospitalized H1N1 victims in a California study were morbidly obese versus 4% of the US population and more than half were obese.  It did not collect data on whether the heavy patients had other underlying conditions although the analysis found that probable. Now the question is, is obesity an independent risk factor or a proxy for other conditions that make flu infection worse? Continue reading Obesity and Swine Flu: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

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Vitamin D During Pregnancy Reduces Pre-Eclampsia

pregnant-ladySeveral studies in different parts of the world have shown that there is a benefit to a baby when the mother takes Vitamin D in excess of the amount in prenatal vitamins.  This shows that there is a benefit to pregnant mothers in reducing the complications of pregnancy.  While the study only looked at a fairly low dose of Vitamin D, probably from cod liver oil and diet, it indicates that supplementation reduced pre-eclampsia by 25%.   Based upon Finish  studies,  I wonder how much less pre-eclampsia would be found if blood levels were raised to 50.    Continue reading Vitamin D During Pregnancy Reduces Pre-Eclampsia

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Vitamin D, Statins and Red Yeast Rice

red-yeast-rice-300x238As those of you who read my blog are aware, I am not a big fan of statins.  The first reason is that cholesterol is not really the problem. The second is that statins depress the body’s own anti-inflammatory compound CoQ10.  But recent research shows that, against our logical assumptions, Vitamin D levels may rise when statins are taken. Continue reading Vitamin D, Statins and Red Yeast Rice

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Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

I am an herbalist, and that is where I turn first, in most cases.  But Vitamin D is an exception.  It is a hormone used by most of our cells in over 2000 functions,.  As humans ranged north of the African savannah where we evolved and started wearing more clothing, we started lowering our D levels.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D

Vitamin D has the ability to kill off bacteria and that property has been so important that we have retained that property as primates for over 60 million years

Vitamin D  also prevents the over stimulation of our immune system which could cause it to attack ourselves.  This is important for the Swine Flu which can be dangerous if there is an excessive inflammatory response, called a cytokine storm.

Most deaths in the 1918 flu pandemic and more recently from SARS, happened when young healthy people who had a strong immune response provoked a cytokine storm which allowed an excessive response that quickly killed them off.  We speculate that with higher levels of Vitamin D, the regulatory function that caused the excessive inflammation might not have occurred.

This article tells how the process works, but the takeaway is to keep your Vitamin D levels high (blood level around 60) which may require 10,000 iu or more daily and if you get the flu increase it.  Continue reading Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

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Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

While I used to think otherwise, I firmly believe that nursing mothers should supplement both themselves and their babies with Vitamin D.  The exceptions to this are mothers who live south of Atlanta, who Breastfeedingtogether with their babies are out of doors without sunscreen between 11:00 am and 1:00pm and who don’t use soap when they wash (because it washes away the D2 oil involved in the process of making D3.)  We used to have government programs to encourage parents to take children out into the sun.   See this informative and entertaining video from UCSD.

In Finland, babies were routinely given cod liver oil providing 4500 iu of D (and modern cod liver oil is NOT recommended for it due to lower D/A ratios).  Then, since research showed that rickets could be  prevented at 400 iu, the recommended daily amount was lowered.  As a result, Type 1 Diabetes skyrocketed.  We have very good data showing that 90% of Type 1 Childhood Diabetes can be eliminated by Vitamin D supplementation.

Continue reading Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

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How To Get Vitamin D from the Sun

How do you get enough Vitamin D from the sun?  If you can fulfill the following, you might get enough:vitamin-d

  1. You live south of Atlanta in the winter.
  2. You are in the sun from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
  3. Your body is mostly uncovered.
  4. You go without sunscreen for at least 15-20 minutes.
  5. You don’t use soap for 48 hours.
  6. You repeat the process in 72 hours.
  7. Your skin is not dark, either from genetics or suntanning. (You may need six times as much exposure if your skin is dark.)

Unless you fit all of these conditions, you need to supplement.  And a multi-vitamin or calcium plus D supplement will NOT have enough Vitamin D, nor will your milk.  You need to supplement with high iu Vitamin D3, preferably above 4000 iu.  If your blood 25 hydroxy D test is below 70 (ignore “high”, “medium” and “low” because that is based on the averages of a D-deficient population,) then supplement it.  The exception is if you have scleroderma or similar abnormal calcium metabolism.

Other ways to supplement:  frequent consumption of liver, preferably from organic animals.  Shitake or other mushrooms dried gill side up in the sun on a daily dose of about one ounce dry weight, cooked long and low.

Calculations from studies on Vitamin D show that, for every person who dies of skin cancer from UV overexposure, more than two hundred will die from other cancers, like lung, breast, prostate and colon, as a result of low vitamin D levels.

See Related Posts:

Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

And More On Vitamin D

Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

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And more on Vitamin D

This is a very funny and informative video on Vitamin D, with images that will stick with you.  (I especially liked his publication strategy to get new patients.)

  • Infant chimps, which we have already seen need similar Vitamin D to humans can take 5000 iu per day.
  • Collagen without sufficient Vitamin D is like putting Jello in water- it gets softer and can’t support the bones.
  • Iguana owners have a better idea of Vitamin D needs than most doctors. (And the pictures of Vitamin D deficient iguanas will stick with you.)
  • Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the blood pressure hormone rennin, and for combating elevated levels of C-reactive protein in your body.
  • Malignant melanoma usually appears in areas without exposure to sun, and working out of doors lowers your malignant melanoma rate.
  • Squamous cell skin cancer is the only cancer that occurs more in sunbathers, the ones that will kill you are lower.
  • Vitamin D toxicity occurred in a Florida lawyer who was taking 1 million iu of Vitamin D for two years due to a manufacturing accident.  When they gave him a diuretic and kept him out of the sun for a month, it reversed.
  • While tanning bed enthusiasts get more cancer, they also have higher bone density.

Lots more and hard information:

See Related Posts:

Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

How to Get Vitamin D from the Sun

Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

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Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

Watching this You-Tube video from the University of California at San Diego might be one of the best things you can do for your health. It explains clearly and in detail which levels of vitamin D3 are necessary to prevent a great variety of diseases. Rickets, the disease our woefully inadequate RDA was designed to prevent, needs very little Vitamin D.    Cancers, diabetes, heart attack, falls, fractures, hypertension, neurological impairment, even pain will be prevented by raising your blood Vitamin D levels to the recommended range.

I have been taking 10,000 iu of Vitamin D3 daily for the last year and am only in the low end of the recommended range.

You can find the charts shown in the video at http://www.grassrootshealth.net

A blood level of Vitamin D (have your doctor test it) should be 40-60 ng/ml, which is likely higher than the reference range of the test. You would need to reach 200 ng/ml to suffer from toxicity. The amount you need to supplement will vary, but is way way higher than you find in any multi.  Unless you seek out a special high concentration vitamin D supplement, you are not getting enough, at least above the Mason-Dixon line (and usually below as well.)

This video puts together the Vitamin D research and offers a public health program designe Continue reading Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

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Sun Exposure Inadequate for Vitamin D

I have been recommending for some time now that people not rely upon sun for all levels of Vitamin D.  Sunshine is quite wonderful for you, despite what the dermatologists and cosmetic salespeople tell you, so long as you are sensible about exposure.  But as the story below tells you, it isn’t enough for your Vitamin D requirements.Sun

Most of us live far too north to get the proper light intensity  or the correct angle of the rays needed to produce Vitamin D.  Virtually all makeup and most skin creams have a SPF blocking free access to sunlight.  And very few of us are willing to foreswear soap for 48-72 hours after sun exposure in order to allow the Vitamin D conversion.  Our food no longer has much since animals are fed indoors on grain instead of growing grass and herbs.  And frankly the levels we need are too high without supplementation. Continue reading Sun Exposure Inadequate for Vitamin D

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