Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's So Special About Vitamin D?

Over the last two weeks I’ve had three people mention Vitamin D to me. They talked about knowing that it’s important, but not knowing exactly why it’s important. Vitamin D for a long time has been known to help with the absorption of calcium, which thus can aid in preventing a vitamin deficiency which can lead to “soft bones” known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

But I had no idea of new research showing how low levels of Vitamin D could affect other areas of our health, physical and mental.

Here is what Dr. Chet Zelasko, says (with footnotes at the end of my post):

“Recently, we've learned about other problems caused by less severe vitamin D deficiencies. Researchers have found people living north of the 35th parallel – the line that runs through Arizona and Georgia – have higher rates of depression, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. iii
Our lifestyles have caused this problem to develop. We spend most of our time inside offices and homes. Then, we apply sunscreen liberally when we're out in the sun to prevent skin cancer. iv
In the summer, we manage to make some vitamin D even while wearing sunscreen. But in the northern winter, the angle of the sun and the reduction in ultraviolet light doesn't allow for much vitamin D production.
This causes seasonal changes in our vitamin D levels, which seems to be linked with health problems.
This problem was only discovered recently, because it is fairly hard to detect. A vitamin D deficiency can take years to develop and is often overlooked. v
That's why it took so long to learn conditions like Type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, some cancers, and multiple sclerosis may all be related to low levels of vitamin
New recommendations for vitamin D intake aren't expected until next year, but most experts say 1,000 units of vitamin D3 should be the new minimum for adults.vii”

Okay. So now that I know the importance of Vitamin D, how do I get it?

Foods with high amounts of vitamin D include fatty fish, fortified milk and fortified cereal. The foods that are “fortified” have about 25% of the USDV, which works out to be 100 IUs. So to get 2,000 IUs, I would need to eat two full boxes of cereal or drink 20 cups of milk a day.

Or I could have 1 and ½ tablespoons of cod liver oil a day. Just thinking about it made me convulse like a cat trying to get rid of a hairball.

The sun also offers Vitamin D—if you don’t wear sunscreen and have enough exposed skin (equivalent to the size of your entire back) to grab it from the rays for about 15 minutes. This is assuming that the sun is even shining without cloud or pollution obstruction, which doesn’t happen very often in Chicago outside of the summer months.

I cannot believe today, which isn’t even the shortest day of the year, has five less hours of sun than the middle of June. Five whole hours. No wonder it’s harder to maintain a great mood in the middle of winter; and who knows what long-term havoc is happening in my body.

All that to say, it looks like I’m going need to supplement. The National Institute of Health’s Office of Supplements says,

Vitamin D3 could be more than three times as effective as vitamin D2 in raising serum 25(OH)D concentrations and maintaining those levels for a longer time, and its metabolites have superior affinity for vitamin D-binding proteins in plasma.”

Looking at our multi, I see that we’re already getting 400 IUs, and it is Vitamin D3.

But that isn’t enough. So we’ll be adding Nutrilite’s Vitamin D3 to our supplement regimen every other day. Our total Vitamin D intake will fall in the 1,200 – 2,000 IU range that researchers are recommending.

NUTRILITE is the world’s leading brand of vitamin, mineral, and dietary supplements, based on 2008 sales. And it is the only global vitamin and mineral brand to grow, harvest, and process plants on its own certified organic farms.

iii Hyppönen E and C Power. Hypovitaminosis D in British adults at age 45 y: nationwide cohort study of dietary and
lifestyle predictors. AJCN 2007;85:860–8.
iv Hyppönen E and C Power. Hypovitaminosis D in British adults at age 45 y: nationwide cohort study of dietary and
lifestyle predictors. AJCN 2007;85:860–8.
v Heaney RP. Nutrients, Endpoints, and the Problem of Proof. Journal of Nutrition. 2008. 138:1591‐1595.
vi Holick, MF. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and
cardiovascular disease. AJCN 2004;80(suppl):1678S– 88S.
vii Vieth R et al. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. AJCN. 2007;85:649 –50.

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