Here’s the rest of the story on vitamin D – Bangor Daily News (blog)
Vitamin D is in the news a lot this time of year, and rightly so. It is an important nutrient, especially for bone health, and the body uses sunlight to make the active form.
Those of us who do not live in the tropics get little sunshine during the winter and are prone to deficiencies of this vitamin. Low vitamin D is associated with diabetes, osteoporosis, even cancer. Because of this, vitamin D is added to milk and other foods and sold as a supplement.
But just because low levels of a vitamin are associated with a disease does not mean the vitamin deficiency is the cause of that disease or that taking a synthesized version of the vitamin will correct the problem. Research does not show that vitamin D supplementation is very effective. One review of 200 studies found the link between taking man-made vitamin D and better health — they primarily looked at bone health, cancer and heart disease — to be “inconsistent.” Several studies show a slight benefit, others show none and still others suggest there may be side effects to taking the supplements, including kidney stones.
Compare that to just getting some sun. A large-scale Swedish study compared the death rates of women, from any disease, who made a point of getting some sun in the summer to those who did not. Those who got more sun had half the death rates of those who did not.
Man-made vitamins are not the same as those naturally present in our food. Natural vitamins comprise hundreds, if not thousands, of compounds that work together and any one of them appears in a relatively low dose in a proper ratio to the other components. Man-made vitamins are highly purified and concentrated, so you get a high dose of only one or two parts of the whole vitamin. That’s not to say there is no benefit to taking them, but they tend to act more like a drug than a vitamin, especially with long-term use or high doses. This is why they can have side effects. Realistically, they are not a good replacement for the real thing.
Plus, there is a bit of an “ick factor.” According to Melanie Warner, author of “Pandora’s Lunchbox,” the vitamin D used in most supplements comes from the lanolin in sheep’s wool and is converted to vitamin D in a factory.
In our office, the only vitamin D supplement I use is cod liver oil. It is not fortified with extra vitamin D to give it more kick. I prefer to use supplements that are the least processed. Several patients have noticed more energy from taking high doses of artificial vitamin D. However, I do not recommend this long term. Remember, sugar gives you a boost in the beginning as well, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for you.
Usual wellness recommendations prevail: Try to get your nutrients naturally; avoid unhealthy diets, such as the low-fat diet (vitamin D is made of cholesterol, which can be deficient in a low-fat diet.); and get some sunshine while you can. If you use an artificial vitamin D, keep the dose low.
The information on vitamin D is relatively new. We are not really certain what an optimal level is or the best way to raise levels. Remember, there is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle — including a little sun — for keeping you well.
Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, chiropractic acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.