Vitamin D for many years has only been thought of as good for healthy bones but in recent years, vitamin D research shows that Vitamin D acts more like a hormone and affects virtually every aspect of health. Reports of new and promising studies seem to emerge almost weekly. However many people are not getting enough Vitamin D
A 2007 analysis of vitamin D studies found that individuals with higher vitamin D levels are significantly – as much as 50 per cent – less likely to develop colorectal cancer.
Another 2007 study found that women who took 1,100 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day together with a calcium supplement reduced their overall cancer risk by 60 per cent. And the research is not only about cancer prevention.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, depression and rheumatoid arthritis, among other diseases. Perhaps not surprisingly, in light of the other studies, one recent review of the health records of more than 13,000 Americans found that individuals with the lowest vitamin D levels were 26 per cent more likely, in an eight-year period, to die than those with the highest levels.
So why is Dr Vieth, one of the premier researchers of Vitamin D so frustrated? You might think he’d have cause for celebration. But for him and other vitamin D researchers around the world, the good news comes with a bitter aftertaste. They believe they can prove vitamin D could help millions live longer and be healthier and yet they have not been able to convince their own governments.
In the US and Canada, official vitamin D policy is set by the Institute of Medicine. And in the opinion of Vieth, the current recommendations – 200 International Units per day for people under 50, 400 for people aged 51-70, and 600 for those 71 and older – are outrageously low. Bruce Hollis, professor of paediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, calls 400 IU a day “a joke”. That’s because the best research suggests that to achieve the higher vitamin D blood levels associated with disease prevention, most adults in the US would need to take 1,000-2,000 IU a day: five to 10 times more than the current official recommendation for adults.
In the UK, the government’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy has declined to set a “Reference Nutrient Intake” value for people “leading a normal lifestyle”, arguing that you can get the vitamin D you need from food and sunlight. But they fall in line with the Americans where they do make recommendations: for people confined indoors, the elderly and pregnant women, they suggest a daily intake of 10 micrograms a day. That’s equal to 400 IU.
Australia has the same outdated recommend daily intake of 400 IU which is far below the ideal of 1,000IU recommended by the latest research. This does not mean that we should all be rushing out to buy Vitamin D supplements as for many people there daily intake will be adequate if they are getting regular exposure to sunshine. Those people that are at risk are the people who spend the majority of their day indoors or if you are in a high risk category for cancer, especially colorectal and breast cancer.
The ideal level is 40-60 ng/ml for most people, this is very different to the reference range which is often 20-80 ng/ml as it can miss many people with sub-optimal levels of Vitamin D. If you have a chronic health condition being higher in the range may also be beneficial according to the research, but once you go over 80 ng/ml the benefits reduce.
The ideal level is 100-150 nmol/l and this is different to the laboratory reference range of 50-250 nmol/l, once again if you have a chronic health condition I would recommend being in the upper end of the range. There are is no reason to go above the range and the evidence suggests that this can also have negative health risks.
If you Vitamin D is below the optimal levels it may not lead to immediate health problems as your body is very good at compensating for nutritional deficiencies, but it will lead to health problems later in life so it is best to get to the optimal levels now.
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin but due to genetic deficiencies, or simply not getting enough sun many people are deficient. I know there is always the concern for skin cancer so you don’t want to get burnt by the sun, and if you can’t get 15 minutes of sun a day (in the middle of the day) or if you do and your Vitamin D is still low then you need to supplement.
If your in Australia one of the best Vitamin D options is the Metagenics Vitamin D liquid, this is a practitioner only brand only available through a consultation with Planet Naturopath
If you need help knowing how much Vitamin D to take and what the optimal levels are for you, then you can schedule a consultation with Planet Naturopath to help you optimize all aspects of your health.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen