The Epidemic of Vitamin D Deficiency?

People are very confused about vitamin D, with good reason! For years it was thought of to be a very toxic vitamin that you shouldn’t to too much of. The recommended daily allowance was set at 400IU per day which was the amount necessary to prevent rickets (a brittle bone disease). Research is now showing that supplementation should be somewhere between 2000-4000IU/day depending on the health conditions and current vitamin D status.

It is my recommendation that everyone get their vitamin D levels checked. You can request this from your MD, and if they will not run it then ask us at your next appointment and we can order the test. While the test is not cheap ($75.00), it will provide invaluable information to preventing multiple chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

We all know that we require the sunlight to produce vitamin D in the body, and that while food supplies minute amounts of vitamin D it is really the sun that we need to reach optimal vitamin D levels.  So here is the dilemma, we know that sun exposure can increase our risk factor for skin cancer so we avoid the sun but we also know that low vitamin D levels will contribute to chronic disease. In fact, research has shown that people with skin cancer have the lowest rate of all other types of cancers. So what are we saying, you should get skin cancer…NO! We are saying that you need optimal levels of vitamin D!!

Dispelling the Myths

1)      We can get enough Vitamin D from the sun to provide us protection for the whole year

FALSE – Depending on when your vitamin D levels are taken will depend on what your status is. However, you need a constant level of vitamin D to be protective.  The amount of sun and the strength of the sun are equally important.  The equator is getting direct sun and all other latitudes are getting a less direct amount of sun. It has been found that the 35th latitude (around California) is the latitude that is required to have enough strength from the sun to convert vitamin D all year round.  For everyone else, the sun is not strong enough to cause a vitamin D conversion.  In fact, it has been found that people in Florida in the winter are vitamin D deficient.  In fact, the journal of experimental dermalotogy in 2007 stated that the recommendations regarding sun exposure need to be reevaluated in lue of the new research on vitamin D.

2)      Sunscreen does not block Vitamin D conversion

FALSE – it has been found that even SPF 8 will reduce vitamin D conversion by 92.5% and SPF 15 by up to 95%

3)      I drink fortified milk, so I am getting enough vitamin D

FALSE – Vitamin D is present in foods such as mushrooms, eggs, salmon, cod liver oil and milk. However the amount of vitamin D is a serving of milk is somewhere between 50-100IU and eggs 40IU and salmon 500IU. You can see that you have to eat a whole lot of these to get the required amount per day.  It has been shown that mushrooms contain a great amount of vitamin D, but you need to eat 5.9lbs of mushrooms per day to get enough to be protective.

30min of sun exposure will give you 10,000-20,000IU of Vitamin D (Williams & Wilkins, 2002)

4)      Vitamin D is Very TOXIC

FALSE – there are very few actual studies on the toxic effects of vitamin D. One of the most common studies was done from 11 people that were fed a meal that was made from vitamin D laced peanut oil (by mistake) and ended up taking in over 5,000,000IU of Vitamin D. Yes this wasn’t a typo…it was 5MILLION. So, 2000IU per day is completely safe.

In fact, studies have shown that the upper limit of vitamin D should be changed to 10,000IU (Am J Clin Nut, 1991)

5)      All Vitamin D Supplements are Equal

FALSE – First of all you need to take D3. Most pharmaceutical companies are producing D2 because it is cheaper, however it is less stable and can’t raise the vitamin D levels like the D3 version

Second, many companies will have things like lactose, gluten, magnesium stearate (coating that some people find hard to break down), sodium benzoate. You want to make sure that the company that you are using uses clean raw ingredients to produce their vitamin D.  The companies that we recommend are Thorne Research and Metagenics who have tight regulations and control on their products – both are distributed through health professionals.

6)      Vitamin D supplements are well absorbed

For the most part they are, however if you have been taking adequate levels of vitamin D and are deficient on bloodwork it may have something to do with absorption.  If you fall into this category, talk to us about checking your ability to absorb crucial vitamins and minerals.

What Protective Effects does Vitamin D have?

1)      Osteoporosis

One of the most widely known and well researched uses for vitamin D is in its protective effects against osteoporosis and fracture risk.  It was found that people that were deficient in vitamin D will only absorb about 10-15% of the calcium from the gut, whereas people that had optimal vitamin D levels were absorbing between 30-80%.  (NEJM 2007; 357-266-81)

2)      Myocardial Infarction

It has been found that men with suboptimal levels of vitamin D are 2.4X more likely to have a myocardial infarction than men with optimal levels. (Arch Int Med, 2008, 168 (11): 1174-1180)

3)      Inflammation

The inflammatory response seems to be very linked with Vitamin D status. Vitamin D levels were checked on people with chronic low back pain, and the majority of them were found to be deficient.  When supplemented for three months, 95% of people in the study reported they were pain free.

4)      Immune System

Antimicrobial peptides function in the human body to keep bacteria, viruses, and fungi in check. These peptides also act as immunomodulators, mediate inflammatory responses, bind bacterial endotoxins, and regulate adhesion molecule expression, and are regulated by probiotics, amino acids, and vitamin D.  Studies have shown that people that supplement with 2000IU of vitamin D through the winter have a 80-90% reduction in influenza compaired to people that don’t supplement at all (Alt Med Review, 2008)

5)      Cancer

  • 77% risk reduction of ALL cancer risk in postmenopausal woman that were supplemented with calcium and vitamin D (Am J Clin Nut)
  • 50% of colon cancer could be prevented by maintaining vitamin D blood levels of >34ng/ml (Nutrition Review, 2007)
  • Reduction by up to 50% of breast cancer risk for people who maintain a vitamin D level of >52ng/ml (Nutrition Reviews, 2007)
  • Reduction by up to 50% of type 1 diabetes in people who maintain a vitamin D level of >34ng/ml (Nutrition Reviews, 2007)
  • Reduction of 20% of ovarian cancer of people that maintain a vitamin D level of >40ng/ml (Nutrition Reviews, 2007)

**the amount to prevent rickets is 6ng/ml…clearly not enough to prevent these major diseases

Take Home Message

1)      We all need to have our vitamin D levels checked by either your MD or ND

Vitamin D Council is suggesting that everyone in Canada should have a vitamin D status of 50ng/ml (125nmol/ml)

2)      Everyone in North America should be supplementing with Vitamin D

  • Birth- 11years – 1000IU
  • 12yrs-adult – 2000IU/year during winter months. If you are spending great amount of time outside without sunscreen then you can reduce your summer intake to 1000IU

3)      If you have had breast or colon cancer, osteoporosis, type 1 diabetes or have a strong history of these conditions please talk to us as recommended levels can increase to upwards of 3800-5000IU/day