An osteopathic physician recently asked me, “What’s with all this hype over vitamin D3?” It was a good question. There have been countless supplements, especially in the field of bodybuilding, that have failed to live up to their promises. I remember when the next big things were AKG, vanadyl sulfate and boron (which, incidentally, is the primary ingredient in 20 Mule Team Borax!). But vitamin D3 is the real deal. Write this down:
“Vitamin D3 may be the single most important supplement we can take for our health.”
I’m serious! Fish oil also has amazing properties, but it takes a backseat to vitamin D3. Listen, I get a lot of feedback from the field. I hear from experts from all over the world. There is consensus among the best practitioners: They have verified over and over that just about everyone is deficient in vitamin D3 and that supplementation is essential.
The evidence is indisputable. The scientific literature is overwhelmed with data that confirm what all these experts have seen. I see the truth of it every day and have been teaching about the importance of vitamin D3 supplementation for some time now. The bottom line is that virtually every disease and adverse health condition is associated with low vitamin D3 levels. Consequently, many of these problems may be fixed with adequate vitamin D3 supplementation, or can be avoided by keeping vitamin D3 levels in the high normal range.
For a long time vitamin D3 was simply regarded as the anti-rickets and bone health vitamin – an underwhelming bit of knowledge. Because it was originally labeled as a vitamin, it was assumed that it wasn’t that important. Now it is more properly recognized as a prohormone that is essential to life. Even if it were only good for bone health, vitamin D3 still would be an important supplement, but the benefits go way beyond just bone health.
Let’s look at this in another way. What if a big pharmaceutical company made a revolutionary breakthrough and announced they had come across a compound so important that it could improve the lives of virtually everyone in the world? What if they told us that for less than 20 cents a day (or about 0.15 Euro) we could significantly reduce our risk for some of the most widespread diseases? What if they also announced that the side effects were actually good and that we would receive all these benefits without any real risk of adverse conditions? And that we wouldn’t even need governmental intervention to make it affordable? The answer is that this would be the biggest blockbuster drug ever to hit the market. Everyone would want a prescription and wouldn’t even mind paying for it themselves.
I’d like you to consider some of the research and benefits and make your own decision. Don’t just skim this; read through it and understand what’s being said in the research. The two best sources I’ve found have compiled a tremendous amount of research and information: www.vitamindcouncil.org (click on “research” on the left and you will be amazed) and www.vitamindhealth.org (Dr. Michael Holick’s website). But to get you started, here are some excellent, peer-reviewed articles.
1. Rickets, bone density, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia: Low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteopenia and fractures. JAMA. 2002;287:3127-3129.
2. Fetal brain development and maternal health: Med Hypotheses. 2010 Jan;74(1):71-5. Epub 2009 Aug 18.
3. Psoriasis: “Hyperproliferative skin disorders such as psoriasis might be responsive to treatment with vitamin D....” “[Treatment with vitamin D] …showed great improvement in reducing the severity and area of psoriatic lesions.” Holick, MF. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2006 Mar;81(3):353-73.
4. Cancer: “Both prospective and retrospective epidemiologic studies indicate that levels of 25-OH D below 20 ng [nanograms] per milliliter are associated with a 30 to 50% increased risk of incident colon, prostate, and breast cancer, along with higher mortality from these cancers....” “Vitamin D either directly or indirectly controls more than 200 genes, including genes responsible for the regulation of cellular proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis.” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
5. Blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance: “Vitamin D deficiency increased insulin resistance, decreased insulin production, and was associated with the metabolic syndrome.” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
6. Depression and other neurological concerns: “Several studies suggest an association between hypovitaminosis D and basic and executive cognitive functions, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.” Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Feb;11(1):12-9.
7. Multiple Sclerosis: “High circulating levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis.” JAMA. 2006;296:2832.
8. Immune function: “When serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D fall below 20 ng per milliliter, the monocyte or macrophage is prevented from initiating this innate immune response” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
9. Cold, flu, and respiratory tract infection: shortened duration of symptoms in study of African women.
10. Symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions: Vitamin D deficiency affects the immune system’s capacity to self-regulate and can therefore lead to tissue damage via overproduction of potentially pathogenic cytokines.
11. Hypertension and congestive heart failure: “In a study of patients with hypertension who were exposed to ultraviolet B radiation three times a week for 3 months, 25-OH D levels increased by approximately 180% and blood pressure became normal.” “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with congestive heart failure.” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
12. Muscle mass and strength: “Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle weakness.” “Performance speed and proximal muscle strength were markedly improved when 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels increase from 4 to 16 ng per milliliter (10 to 40 nmol [nanomole] per liter) and continued to improve as the levels increase to more than 40ng per milliliter (100 nmol per liter). Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
13. Weight Loss: “For every increase of 1 ng/mL in level of 25-OH D3, subjects ended up losing almost 0.2 kg more on their calorie-restricted diet.” Shalamar Sibley, prepublication report for the Endocrine Society’s 91st Annual Meeting.
14. And even longevity, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, thyroid conditions…
...and this just scratches the surface of the research!
Now the question becomes “How do I get my vitamin D3 to optimal levels?” This is the best part, since it’s very easy to fix vitamin D3 deficiency. There are a couple of different approaches that have been shown to work very well. One way is to just supplement with 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day and it’s likely your levels will be at least in the normal range within about three months, but remember, high normal is better than mid normal. Expect it to take another couple of months to reach high normal.
Another approach, which I prefer, is to supplement twice per week with about 30,000 to 100,000 IU of D3. Based on the research and clinical evidence, this method seems to accelerate the increase in blood levels of 25(OH) D3 (the marker that should be tested for). Although the kidneys still need to convert 25(OH) D3 into 1.25(OH)2 D3, the relevant lab value is 25(OH) D3. You should be shooting to get your levels between 80 and 100 ng/mL.
Now let’s go back to our “what if” scenario and ask the question again: What if there were one natural supplement that had been shown in scientific research to improve bone health, improve the development of babies’ brains, reduce the incidence of skin problems like psoriasis, prevent or remedy multiple sclerosis, reduce the risk of cancer, improve blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance, improve neurological conditions including depression and bipolar disorder, enhance immune defense against cold, flu and other infections, lower blood pressure and protect the heart, improve muscle function, increase the ability to lose bodyfat and even help people live longer? What if that compound existed and could be manufactured properly at a very affordable price? I’m happy to give you an answer that is not hypothetical and that you can believe: Vitamin D3 is, literally, the best supplement ever!
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