Why most of us need more vitamin DPosted by Anne Baker on Aug 3, 2012 in Heart Health, Prevention | Comments Off
Vitamin D has been called the sunshine vitamin but many of us are not getting enough of this important vitamin.
It’s estimated that at least 50% of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D and people who live in the northern hemisphere (like Michigan) are particularly at risk of being deficient.
Published estimates and studies grossly underestimate the extent of the problem as a result of using an outdated 25(OH)D threshold (cut off point) of 30 ng/mL (70 nmol/L) for determining deficiency. The Vitamin D Council recommends vitamin D threshold be raised to a level of 50 ng/mL (125 nmol/L) because levels above this indicate important protective health benefits. The USDA guidelines for vitamin D3 are considered too low by most functional medicine practitioners.
Risk factors and benefits -
You probably know vitamin D is important for overall bone health, but did you know vitamin D has a strong cardio-protective impact? Low vitamin D has been linked to increased risk for Coronary heart disease (CHD stroke, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and atherosclerosis.
Let’s take high blood pressure as one example and look at the benefits of vitamin D3. People with high blood pressure typically have low levels of vitamin D and adding 700 – 10,000IU of D3 a day has been shown to improve the following bio-markers -
• Alters rennin; rennin is the enzyme that constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure.
• Increasing insulin sensitivity: insulin resistance is a risk factor for high blood pressure.
• Reduces arterial calcification: hardening of the arteries may contribute to high blood pressure.
• Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption and metabolism. Higher vitamin D levels help direct calcium to the bones and teeth rather than the soft tissues such as the arteries.
Many other heath conditions also improve as vitamin D levels are brought above 50 ng/mL such as diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS, Autism Spectrum Disorder, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, anemia, dementia, and depression.
Vitamin D also plays an important role in boosting overall immunity and new research points to a potential role for UV light exposure and vitamin D levels in chronic digestive conditions such as; Crohn’s disease, a serious inflammatory condition in the small intestine; and ulcerative colitis (UC), which similarly affects the colon. Any one suffering from auto immune disease should supplement with vitamin D.
Depression is another condition (especially Seasonal effective Disorder) commonly associated with low vitamin D levels.
We continue to discover more about the importance of the sunshine vitamin and you can learn more about the latest discoveries by visiting the Vitamin D Council website -
Populations most at risk for low vitamin D -
• Those with insufficient UVB exposure
• Seniors are at greater risk due to lack of mobility and skin that is less responsive to UVB.
• Dieters and those who have poor overall nutrition status
• Heavy alcohol users; alcohol impairs absorption of nutrients
• Diabetics and cancer patients
• Darker skinned populations – high incidence of vitamin D deficiency and its associated conditions in Blacks is widely documented.
• Breastfeeding mothers – breastfeeding will result in vitamin D deficiency in the baby if the mother fails to ensure her own levels are high enough to provide for her baby’s needs.
• Obesity – fat-soluble vitamin D gets trapped in adipose tissue, preventing its metabolization and utilization by the body.
Testing for Vitamin D levels
Your physician can test your levels of Vitamin D through serum. You can also have this done through specialty labs such as Metametrix for around $100. There are also home test kits available which run from $65 for a single to $220 for a test kit of four tests (to re-test your levels- ZRT Lab There is some debate about the accuracy of some labs test results so do your own research before making a decision about how to proceed with testing. Optimally you want to be at 50 ng/mL or above.
There are two forms of vitamin D – D3 and D2. D3. Vitamin D3 is real vitamin D. It is the same substance that is produced in human skin in response to sun exposure. Supplemental vitamin D3 is derived from either lanolin or cod liver oil extract and is the form of vitamin D that most effectively treats vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D2 is derived from fungal sources by activating ergosterol with ultraviolet light. It is not naturally present in the human body and may have actions within the body different to those of vitamin D3. Although many doctors are still prescribing vitamin D2, vitamin D3 is the preferred form for treating deficiency and is what is recommended by the majority of the experts as well as the Vitamin D Council.
There are also prescription forms of vitamin D, such as synthetic calcitriol and vitamin D analogs. Vitamin D analogs are synthetic compounds based upon variations of the naturally-occurring vitamin D metabolites. High dose calcitriol use has been known to increase risk of hypercalcemia. Pharmaceutical vitamin D should never be used to treat vitamin D deficiency. The Vitamin D Council believes we should supplement with 5000IU of vitamin D3 a day to achieve and maintain good health.
In order to receive the most benefit from supplementation with vitamin D3 be sure you are obtaining the important co-factors; magnesium vitamin K, zinc and boron.
*New research suggests vitamin A now also plays a co-factor role however supplementing with Cod Liver Oil is dangerous – read more on dangers of supplementing with Cod Liver Oil here -
The following medications impact the absorption, utilization, and/or activation of vitamin D:
• Anticonvulsant medications, including Dilantin, are used to control seizure activity in people with epilepsy and brain cancer, and those who have suffered head trauma through injury or stroke. These medications decrease the activity of vitamin D.
• Bile acid sequestrants (Cholestyramine, Colestipol) are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels. These drugs may reduce the intestinal absorption of the fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K.
• Cimetidine (Tagamet and Tagamet HB) prevents the release of hydrochloric acid into the stomach and is used to treat the symptoms associated with stomach and duodenal ulcers and acid reflux. This drug may reduce vitamin D activation by the liver.
• Hormone replacement therapy may increase blood levels of vitamin D.
• The corticosteroids are a family of anti-inflammatory drugs, including hydrocortisone and prednisone, that are commonly used in the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. These drugs reduce the activation of vitamin D.
• Heparin, an anticoagulant prescription medication used to prevent blood clots after surgery, may interfere with vitamin D activation.
Vitamin D impacts the following medications:
• Vitamin D may interfere with the effectiveness of calcium channel-blockers, a class of drugs used to treat chest pain, irregular heart beat, and high blood pressure.
• Taking supplemental vitamin D and calcium along with thiazide diurectics can cause blood levels of calcium to increase above normal levels.
Think dairy products are the best source of natural food derived vitamin D? Sea food is actually an excellent source!
Asian Grilled Salmon – serves 4
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
4 center cut skin-on wild salmon fillets, about 4-5 ounces each
1 ½ teaspoons brown rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons low-sodium wheat free Tamari
1 ½ teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon black sesame seeds
Mix in the olive and sesame oil, chopped garlic and ginger and add in the brown rice wine vinegar and honey until mixed. Marinate the salmon in the mixture for 15- 20 minutes.
Preheat the grill over medium-high direct heat. Or you can use a grill pan in-doors for the same effect. Oil the grill grates.
Place the salmon, skin side up, on the grill and cook until well-marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the salmon and continue to cook, brushing the tops with the sauce, until the fish is cooked through, about another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle the tops with the sesame seeds. Depending on the thickness your fish should be done in 6-8 minutes.
Nutrition information on selected sources of vitamin D found in fish:
Table 1: Boston University vitamin D analysis
Raw Fish (3.5 oz serving) International Units (IU)
Wild Salmon (species unspecified) 988
Ahi Tuna 404
Farmed Trout 388
Farmed Salmon* 245
Gray Sole 56
*Note: When the researchers baked a 3.5 oz serving of Farmed Salmon, it lost only 5 IU of vitamin D, but when it was fried in vegetable oil, it lost half of its vitamin D content (122 IU out of 245 IU).