December 3, 2010

Vitamin D warnings:
Ignore them

I'm sure you've read the news and heard the reports on vitamin D. The prestigious Institute of Medicine just upped their vitamin D recommendation from a mere 400 IU per day to a still-paltry 600 IU per day.ÿ And they didn't stop there.

They claim most people get enough vitamin D each day.ÿ They say no one should take more than 4,000 IU each day.ÿ And they say that vitamin D testing is like "the wild, wild West."

I've told you for years that everyone needs to take at least 5,000 IU daily. Now this report says I'm wrong. So what should you believe?

Well for starters, don't believe that 600 IU of vitamin D is enough for good health.ÿ You need many times that amount to reach high blood levels of vitamin D.ÿ

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Literally hundreds of studies show the health benefits of high levels of vitamin D. High levels of vitamin D build strong bones, support your eyes and heart, boost your immune system, and help relieve joint discomfort.ÿ

Don't believe that no one should take more than 4,000 IU per day, either. Your body produces 5,000-10,000 IU just from being outside for an hour on a sunny summer day.ÿ

So why would taking that much in the cold, dark winter do you any harm? It doesn't.ÿ No doctor I know has seen any harmful effects from that amount.ÿ In fact, I routinely recommend my cancer patients take 10,000 IUs daily, or even 50,000 IU twice weekly, with no toxicity.

And that part about vitamin D testing being the "wild, wild West"? Bunk. They're not slamming testing labs because the results are inaccurate.ÿ No, they're slamming labs because they think you only need enough vitamin D to avoid a serious deficiency.

You see, there's a simple test to measure the level of vitamin D in your blood.ÿ Everyone — even the Institute of Medicine — agrees that levels below 20 nanograms per milliliter indicate a "serious deficiency."

Yet, in the same breath, they said that the too-low level ofÿ 20 ng/mL is enough for good health. That's like telling a patient that a blood pressure of 120/80 is "normal," but if your BP goes up to 121/81, your blood pressure is seriously high!

It's just sheer lunacy. This group is so confused, it's sad. But it's also very dangerous. This report will end up harming a lot of people.

The truth is that there's an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in this country.ÿ Nearly every patient I test is low - including myself and my wife!

I see levels less than 40 in almost every known osteoporosis patient. I see levels in this range with cancer patients as well. Without adequate levels of vitamin D, death often comes quickly.

Consider this: There's not enough sunlight in Boston during the winter months to make ANY vitamin D. How are these folks supposed to make up the shortfall? What's more, being outdoors is no assurance you're making enough vitamin D on your own. I've reported on a study from Hawaii that showed unexpected variations in the amount of vitamin D different people make when exposed to the same amount of sunlight. Personal levels of vitamin D production will vary based on latitude, skin color, and time spent outdoors. So this one-size fits all mentality isn't medicine. It's politics.

I was pleased that the news reports included "respected" dissenters from major medical centers across the country, including Harvard, UC San Diego, and Johns Hopkins. Some of these experts are calling for up to 4,000 IU daily, not too far from my 5,000 IU recommendation.

Dr. John Cannell, of the non-profit Vitamin D Council, is in the thick of all the emerging research. He believes that a level of 70ng/mL is optimal. I push my patients to that level.

So follow me and ignore the new warnings. I'm sticking with my daily 5,000 IU dose, especially in winter. I suggest that you do so as well.

Ref: Nutr Res. 2010 Sep;30(9):601-6.

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