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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vitamin D - For Me?

Vitamin D deficiency in the US is wide spread, affecting more than 40% of the people. Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin," and the deficiency is much more prevalent in the northern states and in dark-skinned people. It is also more common in the elderly and the obese. Interestingly, vitamin D is synthesized in the skin from HDL cholesterol (the "good cholesterol"), and people with a very low HDL cholesterol also tend to be more prone to vitamin D deficiency.
In our practice, we check blood vitamin levels routinely, and found that, of those not previously tested, more than 50% were vitamin D deficient.
But why check the vitamin D level?
  1. In women, Vitamin D plus calcium supplementation helps reduce dangerous hip and vertebral fractures (I'm sure it also happens in men, albeit to a lesser extent). It's an important factor in the prevention of bone thinning in general, especially with advancing age, and in the prevention of the bone pain often associated with bone thinning (osteoporosis and osteopenia).

  2. Women who took vitamin D supplements for an average of 7 years, in an extensive study, had a 13% lower incidence of breast cancer.

  3. People with low vitamin D levels have a significantly higher risk of fatal heart attacks, about 27% higher, a frightening statistic (fatal heart attacks account for more than 400,000 deaths a year in the US).

  4. It has been strongly suggested, although not fully scientifically proven, that Vitamin D helps keep Diabetes type II (the common type) under better control.

  5. Some cancers may be reduced in people who take vitamin D supplements, or who normally have higher (but still normal) vitamin D levels: Colorectal, breast, prostate and pancreatic.

  6. There is a marked increase in uterine fibroids in women who have low vitamin D levels.
Except for the effect on bone, where the picture is quite clear, it is not fully understood why all this happens. Is it because people with a naturally normal D level, or those who take supplements simply benefit from having a more acceptable D level? Or is it because these people have other beneficial lifestyles that bring their D levels to normal and at the same time reduce their risk for associated diseases?
I don't know the answer, but I don't recommend taking a chance.
Some of the best, and desirable, food sources for vitamin D include the oily fish salmon, mackerel and tuna, and fortified milk (skimmed or low fat, of course). Others include cod liver oil, beef or calf liver, and egg yolks (do you really want to do that? It will do wonders to your cholesterol).
Vitamin D levels may fluctuate with time, especially with the change of seasons and more so in the north. So you have to check the level periodically.
Does this give you enough reason to have your vitamin D level checked? If it doesn't, talk to me!
This article, as well as some of my other articles, was also published at:,-To-Take-or-Not-To-Take?&id=8228492

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