Superstar D!

vitamin-d

And the winner of the Nutritional Nutrient Academy Award this year is…drumroll…Vitamin D. Yet nearly 80% of my patients are living with suboptimal or deficient levels of vitamin D. This same crisis is plaguing the entire country.

For many years D has played a supporting role to Calcium’s leading actor status in the body. This is because D helps our body absorb calcium. But due to recent medical research, D’s performance has skyrocketed to the A-List. It really deserves an Academy Award winning status for so many reasons. Let’s look at why.

Why is Vitamin D so important?

“There is a vitamin D receptor on every one of our cells,” says Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, author of The Vitamin D Solution. “And those receptors are there for a reason. Actually many reasons—all of our bodily functions seem to rely on the nutrient, and studies show that it’s key to helping prevent everything from migraines to cancer.”

HIGH LEVELS OF VITAMIN D ARE LINKED TO…

  • Less Cancer

“D regulates some of the genes responsible for cellular growth and survival,” states Holick. “It helps shut down any out-of-control growth to prevent malignancy. If that doesn’t work, it will help kill the cell. And if a tumor grows anyway, it will work to cut off blood supply.”

Wow! Vitamin D is linked to 30-50% less diagnoses of breast cancer, and a 50% lower chance of colon cancer. A brand new study shows that if D is kept high, the recurrence of breast cancer is substantially lower, and the survival rate doubles!

  • Greater resistance to viruses

A study by Yale School of Medicine discovered that people with high levels of Vitamin D got sick about half as often as people with low levels.

Why? D up-regulates an important gene that helps the body to fight infections and chronic inflammation. It also tells your white blood cells to manufacture a protein that kills infection.

  • Reduced risk of Parkinson’s

Vitamin D has a protective effect on the brain. Researchers believe the correlation of high levels and less Parkinson’s is because it regulates calcium levels and enhances the conduction of electricity through neurons as well as detoxifies cells.

LOW LEVELS OF VITAMIN D ARE LINKED TO…

  • Diabetes

Vitamin D receptors are present in the β cells of the pancreas and vitamin D has been linked to insulin secretion regulation.

Studies also show that kids who are deficient in D have a 200% greater chance of developing Type 1 Diabetes.

  • Depression

A study by the Mayo Clinic suggests that D may help stimulate serotonin production. People who are depressed, on average, have low D levels.

  • Obesity

Studies show that people who are obese often have low blood levels of D. Body fat traps vitamin D, making it less available to the body, so it’s not clear whether obesity itself causes a low level or if it’s the other way around. But one small study suggests that adding D to a sensiblediet may help overweight people with low D levels lose weight more easily.

  • Chronic Pain

A 2010 study correlated low levels of Vitamin D with migraines and headaches. A 2008 study showed that more than 25% of chronic pain patients have low D levels. This may be because Vitamin D helps control neuromuscular function and prevents blood vessels from constricting and dilating properly.

  • Heart Disease

A long-term study at Johns Hopkins revealed that people with insufficient levels of Vitamin D have an 80% greater risk of narrowing of the arteries. Vitamin D regulates more than 200 genes and controls inflammation. D also has a possible modulating effect on blood pressure.

  • Higher risk of death

Researchers at Johns Hopkins analyzed D levels of more than 13,000 people and found that the lowest levels had a 26% greater chance of dying—from any cause.

  • Higher risk of autoimmune disease

Immune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis occur more often in those who have low levels of Vitamin D.

 

Why are we so deficient in this important nutrient?

The best possible way to get Vitamin D is to expose your skin to the sun. (Please don’t write me admonishing emails about sun exposure and skin cancer—I know the risks.) Appropriate sun exposure is crucial!

“Slathering skin with sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will reduce exposure to ultraviolet-B rays by 95-98%. But if you make enough vitamin D in your skin in summer, it can meet the body’s needs for the rest of the year,” Dr. Holick said. Optimum D levels will help to protect you from many different kinds of cancer. I will allow the expert to continue to speak on this.

“The rising incidence of Type 1 diabetes may be due, in part, to the current practice of protecting the young from sun exposure. When newborn infants in Finland were given 2,000 international units a day, Type 1 diabetes fell by 88%,” Dr. Holick reports. Certainly the doctor is not saying not to protect our kids, but we should allow them to get some unprotected sun exposure.

I am not crazy about the chemical-laden sunscreens we are slathering all over our children (the skin is the largest organ and absorbs everything we put on it). Try a natural brand (like Alba) you can find in a health food store. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens online before buying.

Many factors influence the rate of vitamin D formation in skin, so it is difficult to establish a universal public health recommendation. Asked for a general recommendation, Dr. Holick suggests going outside in summer unprotected by sunscreen (except for the face, which should always be protected) wearing minimal clothing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. two or three times a week for 5 to 10 minutes. I personally say 15 minutes is better.

Should I be supplementing with vitamin D as well?

I’m finding that even for some of my patients who are exposed to the sun, D levels can be low. You need to have your levels checked by blood twice a year. Supplementation is necessary for most of us to get up to optimal levels. Please consult your health care professional before taking any supplement.

Because of the many protective benefits of Vitamin D, functional practitioners (like me) prefer D levels in an optimum range. It’s difficult to overdose on D, but please consult your doctor. Healthy adults have taken 10,000 IU a day for six months or longer with no adverse effects.

The National Institutes of Health sets the normal D range at 16-74 ng/ml; but leading Vitamin D experts are calling for the low end of the range to be moved up. Traditional labs suggest that blood levels under 30 ng/ml denotes deficiency. I like my patients to maintain a level over 50 ng/ml. This is optimal for disease prevention.

How much D should I take?

Again, you need to consult your health care practitioner and obtain blood work—ask for the 25(OH)D test. But once you meet optimal levels, I suggest most individuals continue to take 1,000 – 2,000 IUs daily all year long. For those who are deficient you need to take up to 10,000 IUs daily, but no more.

Is there a certain kind of vitamin D I should take?

Many docs will put D deficient patients on a weekly dose of 50,000 IU’s. Unfortunately, this is usually D2, which is a synthetic version of the nutrient. I believe that a far superior form of D is D3, which is the natural form.

Perfectly adequate forms of D3 can be found at your local drugstore, though you might feel more comfortable selecting a higher quality supplement found at a health food store.

The Star of the Show

Vitamin D really has stolen the show. So make sure to get out in the sun, have your blood tested, and supplement as necessary; then put on your designer clothes, walk the red carpet, and give a standing ovation for Vitamin D!

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Posted on May 27, 2014 at 6:20 pm by Michele Wimmers

    So very crucial, and yet my Dr said to stop taking my Vit D Supplement! I am an intelligent woman, and I appreciate your suppling the information so that I can make the choice and continue taking it. I didn’t see anything about Vit D3 with K! Does K help in absorption?

  2. Avatar

    Posted on July 11, 2014 at 10:12 am by Donna Muszynski

    I registered for Lindy’s 30 Day Nutrition and Wellness Program. After reviewing my health profile, Lindy sent me for several tests which revealed my Vitamin D level is extremely low as Lindy suspected. My 30 day program starts August 11th; I am anxious to see what other health issues Lindy uncovers as she exams my tests results. Check back to see my progress as I work with Lindy to achieve optimum health.

  3. Avatar

    Posted on July 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm by lindy ford

    Michele, thanks so much for your comments! This nutrient is essential for good health. Hey Donna, I can’t wait to witness the positive changes you will make!! Expect Great things. . . and yes, be sure to report back. lindy

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