October 20, 2010

Why winter is bad for men's bones and prostate

Winter is coming, and along with it a higher risk for certain diseases. You already know about colds and the flu. And while the flu can be very serious, there's another reason for you to be concerned about the coming cold weather. If you're a man, it could affect your bones and your prostate.

A Finnish study on 48 white men between ages 21 and 49 tells you why. As I've told you in the past, vitamin D levels in your blood are lower in the winter than during other times of the year. And, since vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, winter can weaken your bones. Here's how it works.

Your body needs a precise amount of calcium in your blood. If you don't get it from intestinal absorption, your body will generate more parathyroid hormone to compensate. This hormone breaks down bone to release needed calcium. The Finnish study found that you can keep parathyroid hormone levels down — and spare your bones — with supplemental vitamin D. In this study, they used just 700-800 IU of vitamin D per day.

But this doesn't just impact men's bones. It can also affect their prostate. Men with the highest levels of serum vitamin D levels have a significantly better prognosis for prostate cancer. So if you have prostate cancer, winter should be a serious concern. Make sure you're taking plenty of vitamin D through the winter months. It will boost your immune system — and fight the cancer better — when your body isn't making enough of it on its own.

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How much is enough? While the first study suggested 700-800 IU, that's not nearly enough. I suggest at least 5,000 IU daily of supplemental vitamin D3. Some people need to take 10,000 IU daily. I take the product from Advanced Bionutritionals, as there's just no way for me to get adequate vitamin D in the northern California winter. Considering how widespread this deficiency is, I recommend taking it even in summer as well.

Ref: J Bone Mineral Res, 2008; Br J Cancer, 2009; 100(3).

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