Monday, December 13, 2010

Vitamin D Controversy

After a flurry of articles singing the praises of vitamin D, we are now seeing the expected backlash of reports urging caution in supplementation. This is as science should behave. As always, I expect “truth” to be found somewhere in the middle. So, if you rushed to supplement high doses of vitamin D and now you are running to dump it in the garbage, slow down.

First of all, the articles questioning supplementation above the old and inadequate doses of 400-800 IU a day are very few compared with the hundreds of studies in the past 5 years that have recommended doses closer to 1,000-5,000 IU a day. The studies urging caution tend to be poorly designed and their endpoints not clear, like the one study looking into “frailty.”

Second, we need to question the motivation of those who find supplementation in general to be unnecessary. Often, they have a pharmaceutical agenda that has labeled anything nutritional as alternative. Interestingly, they don’t see anything wrong with adding chemical products (drugs) to our body, but they cast aspersions at natural products that are already found in our food.

And guess what people end up BUYING when they are nutritionally compromised? Drugs. Besides, the studies questioning vitamin D look at disease issues, not optimal health, a concept rather foreign to BIG PHARMA. And perhaps not unrelated, a pharmaceutical version of vitamin D3 (D2, already a pharmaceutical product, is not as effective) is about to appear on the market. It will be more likely prescribed to those with low levels of vitamin D….

About a third of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D; most of them live too far north to soak up good rays. By the way, Sun exposure for 15 minutes produces 20,000 IU of vitamin D. Will we have to tell people to stay out of the Sun for that long to avoid toxicity? It turns out most scientists beholden to BIG PHARMA would not know much about rare vitamin toxicity reactions if it bit them in the rear.

Still, history has shown that supplementation, like anything else, falls into a “U” curve, meaning that not enough may be as bad as too much. It is in the middle ranges that we find moderation. Let that be a guiding principle as we struggle with supplementation, and with politics and ideologies. In the meantime, it is most prudent to visit a practitioner who is able to check one’s vitamin D3 levels in the blood yearly and keep them around 50-80 with supplementation, as recommended by the Vitamin D Council. Unfortunately, the amount supplemented does not translate into standard blood levels, due to genetic variance in the way we activate vitamin D in our kidneys. Only with such close monitoring we will know for sure whether a given dose is safe for you. Otherwise, we will be guessing and making statements that reflect one’s biases on this matter.


At December 14, 2010 at 6:26:00 PM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do we know what pharmaceutical company is going to market D3? Would love to know, even though I wouldn't take it. I can get it very inexpensively at many sources.

At December 18, 2010 at 3:36:00 PM PST , Anonymous Annie said...

Thank you Dr Rodier! Good to hear sensible and clear comment on vitamin D and the need to test rather than just pick a figure, any figure and use that to supplement vitamin D.
I fell into the insufficient range and commenced supplementing. Took many months to get level up and had to up the dosage to get to anywhere near what I needed. Testing is the only way to monitor. However, the health benefits are amazing and I felt them within two weeks! Less muscle and bone pain, stronger muscles, no acute diverticulitis episodes, just amazing results. Again thanks for your sensible comments.

At January 10, 2011 at 10:02:00 PM PST , Anonymous Supplements said...

Thanks for the information. I have to agree with you. There won't be any problem if you maintain your supplement's dosage.


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