This week I have some information that may be shocking to a great many of you: and may even save your life.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and many other reputable publications, Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a worldwide pandemic. It is estimated that the number of vitamin D deficient people in the world is over one-billion! Why this hasn’t been splashed all over the mainstream media is beyond me.
Not surprisingly, I learned this first hand when, after some routine annual blood work, my doctor prescribed an expensive vitamin D tablet that, in my usual, anal fashion, I researched and found to be inferior to the vitamin D supplements I could get much cheaper and without a prescription from any reputable supplement supplier.
As early as 1950, German scientists realized that vitamin D2, (Ergocalciferol- which is synthetically made from radiating a mold that forms on cereal plants) used in most prescription vitamin D, was inferior and far less potent than vitamin D3, (Cholecalciferol-which is a cholesterol that is extracted from wool grease and wool wax alcohols obtained from the cleaning of wool after shearing. The cholesterol undergoes a four step process to make 7-dehydrocholesterol, the same compound that is stored in the skin of animals. The 7-dehydrocholesterol is then irradiated with ultra violet light. Cholecalciferol is produced intrinsically in human and animal skin when exposed to UVB light, and Cholecalciferol is what’s contained in most quality vitamin D supplements. German doctors changed their prescribing methods and started prescribing D3 as far back as the mid-nineteen-fifties. A great many American doctors, to this day, are still prescribing D2 in higher dosages to compensate for the deficiency between D2 and D3.
Vitamin D is a gift from the sun. It is absorbed through the skin. Given the current scare of skin cancer melanomas believed to be due in large part to the deteriorating solar UV filter, sunblocks, long sleeves and avoidance of the sun have become the norm. That leaves oily fish, (which we discussed last week in our omega-3 discussion) fortified milk and a few bread and yogurt products as our only source of dietary vitamin D. Unfortunately, as we age, our skin becomes less able to absorb sufficient vitamin D from the sun. So if you’re over forty, have milk allergies or just don’t drink milk, follow a vegan diet or have health issues such as Crohn’s Disease or other issues that prohibit or limit the intestines from absorbing vitamins into the system, chances are you may be a member of the vitamin D deficiency club.
In the words of the infamous Groucho Marx, “I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”
The list of possible diseases that a chronic vitamin D deficiency has been associated with is massive. These are some of the known consequences of vitamin D deficiency. Many others are still being studied:
- Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
- Weak Bone Syndrome
- Rickets in children
- Metabolic Syndrome and Type-2 Diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
- 17 varieties of Cancer
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Autoimmune diseases
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Chronic Pain Syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
And the studies continue into even more conditions and diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency. If this hasn’t scared you into insuring that your next blood test includes a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test (25-OH-D test), you may want to go back and re-read the above list. The normal range is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Not that I’d recommend skipping routine annual blood work, but if you’re needle shy or insurance deficient (as many are these days) there are kits available where you just prick your finger with a lancet, smear the blood drip on a chemically treated blotter and send the sample off to the lab you bought the kit from. There are also kits where the results can be seen immediately, but I don’t know enough about them to list their pros and cons. Once again, never self diagnose. See your doctor and request that the 25-OH-D analysis be added to your annual blood work-up if at all possible. Chances are it will already be included anyway. Some members of the medical community do keep up on the latest in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and ways to detect them early.
According to Medicinenet.com, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for those between one-year-old and seventy-years-old is 600IU’s of vitamin D a day. For those over seventy, the RDA rises to 800IU’s a day. Unless you’re following a diet high in oily fish and vitamin D fortified milk and cereals, or if you have a condition that limits your absorption of vitamins and nutrients, it may be time to consider a vitamin D3 supplement.
As for the osteo (bone) issues linked to a vitamin D deficiency is impaired intestinal absorption of calcium, which results in decreased levels of serum total and ionized calcium levels. This hypocalcemia gives rise to secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is a homeostatic response aimed at maintaining, initially, serum calcium levels at the expense of the skeleton. Following this PTH-induced increase in bone turnover, alkaline phosphatase levels are often increased. PTH not only increases bone resorption, but it also leads to decreased urinary calcium excretion while promoting phosphaturia, (Phosphaturia is a urinary tract condition where there is too much phosphorus in urine and it causes the urine to appear cloudy or murky color. This is just a symptom of possible underlying renal issues). This results in hypophosphatemia, (an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally low level of phosphate in the blood which exacerbates the mineralization defect in the skeleton.[1}
Read and heed, my friends. For a few dollars a month spent with a reputable vitamin/mineral/supplement supplier you can take one of the risk factors for all of the above out of the equation. Obviously there’s no such thing as a magic bullet guaranteed to cure any and all ailments, especially for those in the over forty club, but as our elders always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Words to live by.
That’s about all I have to say about vitamin D, except to remind you to have your vitamin D levels tested during your annual check-up.
As always, if you have any comments, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below. If you have questions or comments that you’d rather not post on an open forum, feel free to send me an email.
Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and great health.
See you in the funny papers!
1. Dan L. Longo, Anthony Fauci, Dennis Kasper, Stephen Hauser, J.Jerry Jameson and Joseph Loscalzo, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th edition, p.3094