Most media articles on vitamin D quote studies that say there is no consensus that vitamin D helps whatever the disease that study focused on. At the very least, they say that more study is needed before people start supplementing. I’d like to debunk that so-called “debate”.
Humans are designed to get sunshine. Sunlight, among its functions, triggers our skin to turn cholesterol into vitamin D. Virtually every cell in the body has a receptor for vitamin D, so it must be pretty darn important. Many experts pretend that we get the needed amount of sun exposure, forgetting that most of us live indoors, get to work in a covered conveyance, work in a building and come home when the sun is down. If we dare to go outside, we are covered with clothes or sunscreen. Those “experts” point out that milk is fortified with vitamin D. Hah! Never mind that milk consumption is down, the amount of D added is small and it is D2 rather than the much more effective type, D3. These vitamin D supplement naysayers and downplayers do a great disservice to the public.
Many of the studies that fail to find benefit from vitamin D use tiny daily dosages (400-800 IU) that are barely adequate to keep a child from getting Rickets. There is so much good quality science already out there, that we must assume these researchers have a deep bias or an agenda to promote drugs for the consequences of vitamin D inadequacy.
There is a new page in the library—25 Benefits of Vitamin D. It was reprinted by permission form the Kotsanis Institute. The list contains an amazing variety of benefits. That reflects what I mentioned…every one of our cells is using vitamin D. I will mention just a couple of the many benefits that are ignored by the media.
Cancer. There is impressive data linking low vitamin D and a higher risk of breast cancer. (Sadly, you don’t hear about that from the cancer charities.) In 2014, a review of studies said that evidence of vitamin D protecting against cancers was inconclusive. Hmm. Here is a study published just last week that shows a fairly dramatic advantage for D protecting women against colon cancer. Here is another one this month showing a significant reduction in breast cancer with blood levels above 60 being optimum.
We have been warned to stay out of the sun because of the risk for skin cancer. A study recently completed in South Africa showed that 90% of those suffering non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell or squamous) had blood levels that were deficient or at least sub-optimal in vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system. It is complicated, but the bottom line is one way or the other, be sure to get sufficient vitamin D.
Depression. As we will discuss on the show this week, in the last couple of decades, the rate of suicides has increased by 25%. Although ½ the victims have not been formally diagnosed with mental illness, most are apparently depressed. A study published this week showed that blood levels of D track with both depression and obesity (which is also depressing). Another recent study showed that blood levels of D around the time of pregnancy are a major determinant of whether mom becomes depressed. (Mom probably stopped playing tennis and gardening and was warned away from supplements?)
Could the widespread use of sunscreens that block the formation of vitamin D have a subtle influence on the suicide problem? What about the huge increase in the use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol…remember the body needs that to make vitamin D. Teens are among the biggest factors in the suicide trend. In an article from 10 years ago, I saw that 1 in 7 teens were deficient and half of African American teens were deficient in vitamin D. It is even scarier that what was considered normal then is known now to be low. Teens now seem to be indoors more and are drinking less milk that has at least low levels of supplemental D.
There are 2 other articles on vitamin D in the Supplement Section of the Library on this site. For example, there is information about testing and safety. I also call your attention to some notes on this brain/mood page relating to Dr. Martin’s appearance this week on the subject of suicide.