Problems discovered with vitamin D supplements

Alternative Medicine, Nutritional Health
Many consumers do not realize that natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) are essentially unregulated in the U.S. Without the wonderful work of several independent quality testing labs, professionals and consumers would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. To illustrate this is a recent report showing that among 28 vitamin D supplements recently selected for independent testing by ConsumerLab.com, problems were found with 8 products (29% of those reviewed). (more…)
Read More

What to do with the two vitamin D guidelines?

Nutritional Health
As we've discussed in a number of past blogs, many adults are deficient in vitamin D, placing them at elevated risk for fracture, frequent falls, and a slew of other medical problems including several types of cancer. But what is the ideal way to prevent this deficiency? And does the method used matter in terms of health outcomes? As I've mentioned in the past Osteoporosis Canada recently reviewed these issues and offers bold new recommendations for vitamin D supplementation. But their recommendations are quite different from those offered by the Institute of Medicine. (more…)
Read More

My Take on the new Vitamin D and Calcium Recommendations

General Health, Nutritional Health
You're likely hearing a fair bit of controversy over the Institute of Medicine's (IOM's) new recommendations (RDA) for vitamin D and calcium. I first reported on this in my blog, "Institute of Medicine says megadoses of vitamin D, calcium unnecessary." The IOM calls for MORE vitamin D and LESS calcium ... but many experts say the vitamin D doses are still not high enough. Vitamin D The new RDA is: 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for ages 1 to 70, and 800 IU for over 70. But these RDAs are based ONLY on the amount needed to prevent bone problems, such as rickets, osteomalacia, osteopenia, osteoporosis, and fractures. Higher amounts of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of falls, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, etc. But the…
Read More

Institute of Medicine says megadoses of vitamin D, calcium unnecessary

General Health, Nutritional Health
In a front-page article, the New York Times says, "The very high levels of vitamin D and calcium that are often recommended by doctors and testing laboratories – and can be achieved only by taking supplements – are unnecessary and could be harmful, an expert committee says" in a low-awaited report. The "group said most people have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their blood supplied by their diets and natural sources like sunshine." Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, "a member of the panel and an osteoporosis expert at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute," said, "For most people, taking extra calcium and vitamin D supplements is not indicated." The AP reports, "Long-awaited new dietary guidelines say there's no proof that megadoses prevent cancer or other ailments – sure to frustrate…
Read More

Vitamin D Supplements Reduce the Risk of Flu – Especially in Children

Children's Health, Parenting
The doctors of pharmacology at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database are reminding us healthcare professions to inform our patients that vitamin D supplements may reduce the chance of getting influenza. Vitamin D levels decrease during the winter months, during the time that influenza is prevalent. Studies have also shown that lower serum vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory infections. As I've told you in a past blog, one research study now shows that school children who take vitamin D have a lower risk of developing the flu. Taking vitamin D3 1200 IU daily during the winter reduced the risk of flu by about 42% in children. So, the NMCD tells physicians to "explain to parents that this is promising, but preliminary. Advise parents to…
Read More

Can Calcium Supplements Cause Heart Attacks?

Heart Health, Nutritional Health
Calcium supplements are coming under scrutiny due to concerns that they might increase heart attacks. A new study shows that patients over 40 who take 500 mg/day or more of calcium have an increased risk of heart attack. And, the theory is plausible as too much calcium might lead to vascular calcification and atherosclerosis. But it is WAY, WAY, WAY  too soon to jump to any conclusions for at least a couple of reasons: The analysis only looked at people taking calcium supplements alone. It doesn't address the role of dietary calcium or taking vitamin D along with calcium. Especially since some research suggests that taking calcium plus vitamin D does not significantly affect coronary artery calcification. The Doctors of Pharmacology at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database tell prescribers this:…
Read More

Recommendations for Adult Doses of Vitamin D Increasing

Children's Health, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
According to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Vitamin D doses recommended for routine supplementation in adults will continue to move higher. Many experts, including me, have long been calling for higher doses. Now new guidelines from Osteoporosis Canada recommend up to 1000 IU/day for adults under age of 50 and up to 2000 IU/day for adults over 50. The Institute of Medicine in the US is also expected to raise recommendations sometime soon. For now, the NMCD experts recommend 1000-2000 IU/day for most adults and 400 IU/day for most infants and children.
Read More

How Much Sunlight Is Equivalent to Vitamin D Supplementation?

Cancer, Mental Health
Readers of this blog are well aware than many (if not most) Americans have insufficient to deficient levels of vitamin D. Other than prescribing oral vitamin D or vitamin D-containing foods, we doctors were left with prescribing a little sunshine. But, we know that exposing your skin to unprotected UVA or UVB light can increase your risk of skin cancer. And, there has been controversy about exactly how much sunlight one might need to avoid vitamin D supplements. Now, I may have an answer for you. But, first a few basics. Vitamin D is essential for bone mineralization and may have a wide variety of other health benefits. Here are just a few I've blogged about: Vitamin D Supplementation and Cancer Prevention Vitamin D helps fend off flu and asthma…
Read More

How much vitamin D is too much?

Children's Health, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Parenting, Woman's Health
Now that so many more people are taking vitamin D, some are asking how much vitamin D is too much. And, it’s important to note that vitamin D doses vary widely and toxicity is rare. Here are some guidelines recommended to healthcare professionals from the evidence-based experts at The Prescriber’s Letter: To prevent deficiency, recommend 1000 to 2000 IU/day of vitamin D for adults and 400 IU/day for infants and children. Most people will need supplements. We don't get much vitamin D from the sun these days due to sunscreens, staying indoors, etc. Diet usually isn't enough, either. Very few foods contain vitamin D ... and milk only contains only 100 IU per cup. Higher doses are needed to maintain adequate levels in some patients ... or to treat a…
Read More

Adults may need up to twice the amount of vitamin D than is typically recommended

Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Here’s news about a new guideline that will change something I do in practice. The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported, "Older adults need up to twice the amount of vitamin D than is typically recommended, according to guidelines released Monday by the International Osteoporosis Foundation." The guidelines "urged adults, defined by this group as 65 and older, to aim for a 25-OHD blood level – the primary marker for vitamin D in the blood – of 75 nanomoles per liter. In our community, physicians have been aiming for a vitamin D level of 50. So, the new guideline will be a new practice for me. To reach that level, one would need an intake of 20 to 25 micrograms per day (or 800 to 1,000 international units) of…
Read More

Take Vitamin D With Largest Meal

Nutritional Health
Taking your vitamin D supplement with the largest meal of the day may boost its absorption substantially, according to a new study from researchers at the Cleveland Clinic. Here are details from WebMD: The researchers  instructed 17 men and women, average age 64, whose blood levels of vitamin D were borderline insufficient despite taking supplements, to take their supplements with the largest meal of the day. After two or three months, the study participants had about a 50% increase in blood levels of the vitamin, regardless of the dose they took. Researchers Guy B. Mulligan, MD, and Angelo Licata, MD, had noticed that patients typically report taking the supplement either on an empty stomach or with a light meal. Because the vitamin is fat-soluble, the researchers speculated that taking it…
Read More

Is OJ as good a source of vitamin D as supplements?

Nutritional Health
A glass of orange juice may not only help the vitamin pill go down. A new study suggests that fortified varieties can also help the body's vitamin D levels go up - just as effectively as the supplement itself. The finding could bring a welcome addition to a very short list of sources for vitamin D, which is thought to help fend off an array of health problems including brittle bones, diabetes, and cancer. Here are details from Reuters Health: "A lot of people don't drink milk," which has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930s, "but they do drink OJ in the morning," the study's study author, Dr. Michael Holick, of the Boston University School of Medicine, told Reuters Health. Simply adding a vitamin to a food does not guarantee its…
Read More

Vitamin D Supplementation and Cancer Prevention

Cancer, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Readers of this blog know that, in general, I'm in favor of healthcare professionals checking vitamin D levels as part of routine exams. I do this on all adolescents and adults. And, I've blogged more on the topic of vitamin D this year than any other topic. So, I'm trying to post less on the topic, but this and the next too blogs were too important not to mention to you. The subject of this blog is based upon an abstract of an amazing study titled “Vitamin D Supplementation and Cancer Prevention.” It is authored by Thomas L. Lenz, PharmD, and published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (2009;3[5]:365-368): It is estimated that approximately 1 billion people worldwide have blood concentrations of vitamin D that are considered suboptimal. Much…
Read More

Vitamin D helps fend off flu and asthma attacks

Children's Health, Parenting
In a recent study of Japanese schoolchildren, vitamin D supplements taken during the winter and early spring helped prevent seasonal flu and asthma attacks. Here's more on the study from Reuters Health: The idea for the study, study chief Dr. Mitsuyoshi Urashima, told Reuters Health, came from an earlier study looking at whether vitamin D could help prevent the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. The researchers in that study noticed that people taking vitamin D were three times less likely to report cold and flu symptoms. This led Urashima, of Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo, and colleagues to randomly assign a group of 6- to 15-year-old children to take vitamin D3 supplements (1,200 international units daily) or inactive placebo during a cold and flu season. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is more…
Read More

Increasing vitamin D levels may cut heart disease risk

Heart Health, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
I may have blogged more on vitamin D this year than any other topic. And, now, the Los Angeles Times is reporting, "Raising the amount of vitamin D in the blood appears to help some people -- at least those deficient in the vitamin -- reduce their risk of heart disease by about 30%." This is according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting. In the past, "researchers have been uncomfortable randomizing people with low vitamin D into a group that ... does not" receive treatment, because deficiency "can contribute to weaker bones and" has "been associated with increased risks of several diseases, including several types of cancer." The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the researchers reported that "patients who increased their vitamin D levels to 43 nanograms…
Read More

Babies should take vitamin D supplement

Children's Health, Parenting
Frequent readers to this blog are aware of the growing incidence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency in all age groups in the US. Now, according to a new study published online in the journal Pediatrics, "most babies should take a daily vitamin D supplement." USA Today reports that the researchers say, "only 1% to 13% of infants under one year now get a vitamin D supplement, available in inexpensive drops." The study said "those drops are needed ... because only 5% to 37% of American infants met the standard for vitamin D set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2008: 400 international units (IU) a day. This matches what I am recommending for my pediatric patients (from infancy, through childhood, and into adolescence): give a supplement of 400…
Read More

Vitamin D Supplementation Helps Prevent Falls in Older Adults

Nutritional Health
Each year, one third of adults 65 years and older have at least one fall. And, 9% of those falls require an emergency department visit and up to 6%result in a fracture. Consequently, strategies to prevent falls have become an important public health goal for the elderly. A recent review of multiple published studies concluded that vitamin D supplementation taken in dosages of 700 to 1,000 IU per day (achieving a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of at least 24) reduces falls in older persons by 26%. And, for good news for the cost conscious, the more expensive active forms of vitamin D (which also had double the rate of a significant side effect) were no more effective than the very inexpensive and safer over-the-counter supplemental vitamin D. A vitamin D level…
Read More

Vitamin D Linked to Lower Heart Risk

Heart Health, Nutritional Health
According to new research, vitamin D supplements may not only help your bones, they may help protect your heart. A new review of research on vitamin D and calcium supplements shows that people who take moderate to high doses of vitamin D have a lower risk of heart disease -- while calcium supplements seemed to have little effect on heart disease risk. Here's the full report from WebMD: Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to exposure to sunlight but is also commonly found in fortified dairy products and supplements. It is already known to play a critical role in calcium absorption and bone health, but a growing number of studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation may also lower the risk of heart disease. Researchers say vitamin D and…
Read More

Can Vitamin D Ease Fibromyalgia Pain?

Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because when sunlight hits skin, the body produces this vitamin, essential for strong, healthy bones. However, a mountain of new evidence suggests that the vitamin may have a more versatile role than previously thought, particularly when it comes to maintaining a healthy immune system and boosting mood. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with more severe asthma, colds, seasonal affective disorder, depression, a number of types of cancer, and even chronic pain or fibromyalgia. So does that mean that taking more vitamin D (or spending a bit more time in the sun) can combat fibromyalgia? Not just yet. But, here's a hopeful report from Health.com on the topic that may be of help to those wrestling with fibromyalgia: Studies have found that…
Read More

In Lab Tests Vitamin D Shrinks Breast Cancer Cells

Cancer, Nutritional Health
I've posted a number of blogs about the fact that vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency (low levels of serum vitamin D) is associated with a number of types of cancer, as well as diabetes and asthma, but now new research also shows that vitamin D can kill human cancer cells. The results of this new research fall far short of an immediate cancer cure, but they are encouraging, medical professionals say in a report from ABC News. JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, has studied the effects of vitamin D for 25 years. Part of her research involves taking human breast cancer cells and treating them with a potent form of vitamin D. She reports that within a few days, half the cancer cells shriveled up…
Read More

Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk

Nutritional Health
Soaking in more sunlight and drinking more dairy may help you ward off colon cancer according to a report in Medscape. Researchers in Europe have found that people with abundant levels of vitamin D -- the so-called sunshine vitamin -- have a much lower risk of colon cancer. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggest vitamin D may have the power to help prevent colon cancer and possibly even improve survival in those who have the disease. The body makes vitamin D after the skin absorbs some of the sun's rays. You can also get vitamin D by consuming certain foods and beverages, such as milk and cereal, which have been fortified with the vitamin, but few foods naturally contain it. For the current study, researchers…
Read More

Daily Calcium Plus Vitamin D Supplements May Reduce Fracture Risk

Nutritional Health
MedScape reports that daily supplements of calcium plus vitamin D, but not of vitamin D alone, are associated with significantly reduced fracture risk, according to the results of a patient level-pooled analysis reported in the January 12 issue of the BMJ. "A large randomised controlled trial in women in French nursing homes or apartments for older people showed that calcium and vitamin D supplementation increased serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, decreased parathyroid hormone, improved bone density, and decreased hip fractures and other non-vertebral fractures," write B. Abrahamsen, from Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues from the DIPART (vitamin D Individual Patient Analysis of Randomized Trials) Group. "Subsequent randomised trials examining the effect of vitamin D supplementation — with or without calcium — on the incidence of fractures have produced…
Read More

Low levels of vitamin D may be linked to greater asthma severity

Nutritional Health
Study suggests 70 percent of children, young adults do not get enough vitamin D More reasons to consider having your vitamin D level checked – you may think better and have less arthritis Specific vitamins and a supplement (B vitamins, vitamin D, and calcium) may lower risk of stroke, blindness, and cancer Vitamin D tests soar as deficiency, diseases linked Lack of vitamin D raises death risk Vitamin D Recommendations for Teens May Be Too Low Vitamin D may protect against heart attack Low Vitamin D Levels Associated with Artery Disease The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported that researchers at the National Jewish Health in Denver found that "adult asthma patients with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood had better lung function compared with people with…
Read More

Vitamin D deficiency in kids is getting more attention

Children's Health, Nutritional Health
A recent cross country study sample suggests that MOST children in the U.S. have suboptimal vitamin D levels. Healthy blood levels of vitamin D are at least 30 ng/mL; but 2 out of 3 kids have levels below this, and about 1 in 5 kids ages 1 to 11 are deficient with a vitamin D level below 20 ng/mL. The problem is especially severe in Black and Hispanic children. HALF are deficient, with levels below 20 ng/mL. This is likely because their darker skin blocks out more of the sun's UV-B rays needed for making natural vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 IU/day of vitamin D, starting days after birth all the way through adolescence. A cup of cow's milk or baby formula contains only about 100…
Read More

Suplements for Colds or the Flu. What works? What does not?

Alternative Medicine
Demand continues to rise for supplements for colds and flu ... despite the lack of hard evidence for most of them. However, some may work. Find out more about them here. Nasal saline irrigation can reduce nasal congestion, sore throat, and cough. I suggest that my patients irrigate once a day or more often if needed. Zinc lozenges might help decrease a cold's duration. But I caution my patients that zinc has a metallic taste and too much can lead to copper deficiency. The Natural Medicines Database tells doctors, “Remind people to throw away old recalled Zicam nasal products. Nasal zinc can cause a loss of smell.” Adequate vitamin D levels are associated with a lower risk of respiratory infections. This looks promising, but it doesn't prove that vitamin D…
Read More