Vitamin D to the Rescue!
Vitamin D is one of the oldest hormones, having been produced by life forms for over 750 million years. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and most plants and animals that are exposed to sunlight have the capacity to make vitamin D. In humans, vitamin D is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body, from birth until death.
The Institute of Medicine brought experts together recently to explore the question of whether the RDA or recommended daily allowance, of vitamin D has been set too low. The impetus for the occasion was the mounting evidence for this vitamin’s role in preventing common cancers, autoimmune diseases, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, and osteoporosis.
Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is common in the U.S.
According to Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD, of the Boston University School of Medicine
the typical symptoms are aching bones and muscle discomfort, vitamin D deficiency is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Vitamin D has also been implicated in the cause of various other health disorders including influenza, psoriasis, gout, otosclerosis, interstitial cystitis, decreased pulmonary function, thrombosis, chronic kidney disease, pancreatitis, rheumatology, hepatitis B infections, hemochromatosis, and gastrointestinal diseases.
Research at a Glance
Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Reiter’s Syndrome. lupus, asthma, and ulcerative colitis. Researchers are discovering an increasing number of links between the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. Hormones of the endocrine system, such as vitamin D, help the immune and nervous systems defend the body, with defects in this intricate system leading to autoimmune disorders.
Research has shown that low maternal vitamin D3 has important ramifications for the developing brain. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone with many importa
nt functions in the brain, mediated through the nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR). Dysfunctional VDR demonstrate altered emotional behavior and specific motor deficits.
Vitamin D inhibits inappropriate cell division and metastasis, reduces blood vessel formation around tumors, and regulates proteins that affect tumor growth. It also enhances anti-cancer actions of immune system chemicals and chemotherapy drugs.
A four-year study of 1,179 healthy, postmenopausal women showed that taking calcium, along with nearly three times the U.S. government’s recommendation of vitamin D3, showed a dramatic 60 percent or greater reduction in all forms of cancer.
It’s estimated that if vitamin D levels were increased worldwide, a minimum of 600,000 cases of breast and other cancers could be prevented each year. Nearly 150,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the United States alone.
Studies show that by taking vitamin D (about 2,000 IU/day) females can cut breast cancer incidence by half!
In a study involving 150 children and adults with unexplained muscle and bone pain, almost all were found to be vitamin D deficient; many were severely deficient with extremely low levels of vitamin D in their bodies.
Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle weakness and pain in children and adults. Muscle pain and weakness was a prominent symptom of vitamin D deficiency in a study of Arab and Danish Moslem women living in Denmark (20).
In a cross-sectional study of 150 consecutive patients referred to a clinic in Minnesota for the evaluation of persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain, 93% had serum 25(OH)D levels indicative of vitamin D deficiency.
Maintenance of serum calcium levels within a narrow range is vital for normal functioning of the nervous system, as well as for bone growth, and maintenance of bone density. Vitamin D is essential for the efficient utilization of calcium by the body.
A recent study found that supplementation of elderly women with 800 IU/day of vitamin D and 1,200 mg/day of calcium for three months increased muscle strength and decreased the risk of falling by almost 50% compared to supplementation with calcium alone.
Mental Function and Moods
Recent research indicates vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and cognitive impairment in the elderly. Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in various psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression.
Vitamin D helps maintain adequate insulin levels. Preliminary evidence suggests supplementation can increase insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Prolonged supplementation may help reduce blood sugar levels.
There is considerable scientific evidence that 1,25(OH)2D has a variety of positive effects on boosting the immune system.
Additionally, there is growing evidence that maintaining vitamin D levels in the body during the winter prevent the flu and other viral infections by strengthening the immune system.
Activated vitamin D has been shown to increase survival in patients with cardiovascular disease.
Low plasma vitamin D3 has been found to be a major risk factor for hyperparathyroidism.
High Blood Pressure
Clinical and experimental data support the view that vitamin D metabolism is involved in blood pressure regulation and other metabolic processes.
An inability to tan is the number one risk factor for melanoma. Those who tan easily or who have darker skin are far less likely to develop the disease. A new theory is that melanoma is actually caused by sunlight (vitamin D) deficiency and that safe sun exposure actually helps prevent the deadly disease.
Vitamin D supplementation may help prevent the development of MS as well as provide for additional treatment.
Low intake and low serum levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with an increased risk for progression of osteoarthritis.
Vitamin D deficiency is extremely prevalent in the elderly. Most often the first symptoms are muscle pain, fatigue, muscular weakness, and gait disturbances. More severe deficiency causes osteomalacia (bone weakening and loss) with deep bone pain, reduced mineralization of bone matrix, and bone fractures.
How much vitamin D does the average person need?
In the summer, those with at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on their skin most days should take around 1,000 mg of vitamin D3 each day. In the winter, those with dark skin, or those who have little sun exposure on their skin, should take up to 4,000 mg each day. Those who have darker skin, are older, avoid sun exposure or live in the northern US should take the higher amounts, around 2,000mg a day.
Vitamin D is remarkably safe; there have been no deaths caused by the vitamin.
People consuming only government-recommended levels of 200-400 IU/day
often have blood levels considerably below 50 ng/ml. This means the government’s recommendations are too low, and should be raised for optimal health function.
High Dose Vitamin D can be purchased at a number of health food or big name drug stores. However, please be advised that not all vitamin D is equal. I recommend using only pharmaceutical grade, naturally-occurring Vitamin D3.