Why Isn’t Everyone Supplementing with Vitamin D?January 2016
By Chancellor Faloon
Popular multivitamin supplements still don’t provide enough vitamin D to yield optimal health benefits. Most commercial multivitamins contain 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D, a potency that provides little real-world benefit.
With evidence showing reduced mortality in those with higher vitamin D blood levels, an urgent need exists to alert the public about the importance of taking the proper dose of this low-cost vitamin. Failure to properly supplement contributes to a host of premature illnesses along with increased national health care costs.
Compelling research has demonstrated that vitamin D blood levels in the range of 50 to 80 ng/mL are associated with reduced mortality and a lower risk of common diseases.1,2
A considerable volume of published literature documents a connection of insufficient or deficient 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels3 with higher risks of cancer,4-6 vascular disease,7-10 and chronic inflammation.11-13
Low vitamin D status has long been associated with loss of bone density. This limited view of vitamin D’s biological effects is still taught in many medical textbooks, leading some doctors to view vitamin D only for its value in reducing osteoporosis risk.
Yet vitamin D has clinical applications for a vast array of health conditions. This article reviews some recent findings that reveal an even wider range of protective benefits conferred by this readily available dietary supplement.
Reduced Mortality in Hospital Patients
Some of the most impressive research discovered on vitamin D has been on ICU (intensive care unit) patients. The New England Journal of Medicine first reported in 2009 a striking 45% mortality (death) rate in vitamin D-deficient ICU patients compared to only a 16% mortality rate in sufficient vitamin D patients. This study showed that vitamin D deficiency results in almost 3-times more patients dying in the ICU.14
Vitamin D deficiency is an all-cause mortality risk factor and since the publication of this study in 2009, there has been even more data released to substantiate this claim.15-17
A fascinating study reported in 2015 showed very similar results to the aforementioned study. This study entailing 135 ICU patients revealed a 32.2% risk of mortality when vitamin D levels were below 12 ng/mL compared to a 13.2% risk of mortality if levels were greater. This finding shows that vitamin D deficient patients die at a 2.4-fold greater rate.18
Not all studies of seriously ill patients in the intensive care units (ICU) show lifesaving effects of vitamin D. Giving ICU patients large doses of vitamin D has not consistently reversed their life-threatening conditions.19 This indicates that to benefit from the life-protective effects of vitamin D, higher blood levels should be maintained on a constant basis. Overall, patients armed with higher levels of vitamin D before they enter ICU show better clinical outcomes than those who do not.20-22
Post Stroke Functional Outcome
Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability. An estimated 6.8 million Americans (2.8% of the entire adult population) are living after having had a stroke.23,24
When a stroke occurs, 40% of its victims experience moderate to severe debilitation requiring special care, and 15% die shortly thereafter.25
Vitamin D deficiency is pervasive among stroke victims, and those with the lowest levels of vitamin D have been shown to have the poorest functional outcomes. In fact, a recent study showed that for each 10 ng/mL decrement in vitamin D, the odds of a poor 90-day post stroke functional outcome doubled.26,27
To put this in perspective, those who don’t supplement with high doses of vitamin D typically have 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels under 20 ng/mL. Those who properly supplement should strive to obtain levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D over 50 ng/mL. Based on this study’s findings, people with these higher vitamin D levels would be far more likely to avoid permanent institutional confinement if they suffered an ischemic stroke.
Another recent study involving 818 stroke patients showed very similar results. Those with an adequate vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL or above showed a 90% better improvement in functional outcomes compared to those who were severely deficient (<10 ng/mL ).28
Experts believe that in order to prevent many of the age-related diseases, people should maintain a vitamin D blood level between 50 to 80 ng/mL.1,2
These stroke studies are showing robust improvement in functional outcome with just a sufficient vitamin D blood level. Based on the number of studies showing vascular protective benefits of vitamin D, those who maintain optimal vitamin D levels, along with comprehensive blood testing to correct other risk factors, will likely decrease their stroke risk and reduce the odds of permanent disability in the event one of their cerebral arteries becomes occluded (ischemic stroke).29
Support for Diabetics
Beta cells are insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. When the beta cells die, people become insulin-dependent diabetics. Without insulin, there is nothing to deliver glucose into cells for energy production. This leads to high circulating glucose blood levels that contribute to a long list of deadly disorders that include heart disease,30 Alzheimer’s,31 and cancer.32
Vitamin D has been documented to prevent high glucose-induced beta cell apoptosis (death). This is because beta cells contain active receptors for vitamin D, just like every other cell in the body.33-35
A Link between Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis
It is well known that there are higher rates of vitamin D deficiency in colder climates of the world due to the lack of sun. This has caused a greater chance of having an immune system-related illness.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease caused when the body’s own T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and macrophages attack the myelin sheath of neurons.36 Those living in the northern part of the United States are twice as likely to develop multiple sclerosis, and those in Canada have a 5-times greater risk compared to people residing in the southern US. This geographical data, along with a multitude of studies that explain the mechanisms and causation, has led many researchers to believe that MS is heavily influenced by vitamin D deficiency.37
A study published by PLOS Medicine identified single nucleotide polymorphisms that were strongly associated with lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.38 The researchers studied the odds of MS on those with genetically lower vitamin D levels from the International Multiple Sclerosis Consortium study. Considered the largest genetic association study to date for MS, it included 14,498 subjects with MS and 24,091 healthy controls. The authors concluded that genetically lowered vitamin D levels were strongly associated with an increased risk for MS.38
This new data heavily reinforces the statistics and research on vitamin D for MS. Trials show that more than 90% of people with MS have deficient vitamin D.39 Deficient is defined at a level below 20 ng/mL.3
Vitamin D can even mediate the direct effects of the immune cells that attack the myelin sheath, a hallmark pathological mechanism of MS. When these aggressive immune cells were extracted from MS patients and exposed to vitamin D, their division was slowed. This signifies the imposing control vitamin D can have on autoimmune diseases such as MS.40
Vitamin D Lowers Inflammatory Biomarkers
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an inflammatory cytokine. At high levels, this cytokine has been linked with several types of cancers.41 Overweight individuals have much higher rates of inflammatory cytokines like interleukin-6.42
A compelling study documented marked reductions of interleukin-6 when vitamin D is combined with weight loss. The study involved 218 overweight postmenopausal women who were divided into two groups. Both groups had weight loss interventions, but one group was given 2,000 IU per day of oral vitamin D3.
Both groups achieved a 5% to 10% weight loss, but the group that received the vitamin D supplement showed an impressive 37.3% reduction in interleukin-6 levels compared to the placebo which only had a 17.2% reduction.43
Interesting research is showing higher levels of vitamin D play an important role during pregnancy for preventing many different psychiatric disorders.44,45
The vitamin D receptor emerges in the brain stem through the embryonic development of rats. This indicates and reinforces the idea that vitamin D is important for gestational development.46,47 Additional studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency in the mother can lead to impaired growth of the fetus.48
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
A fascinating study analyzing vitamin D blood levels in 1,650 mothers showed that for each 10 ng/mL increment in vitamin D levels, their children had 11% less ADHD-like symptoms.45
This type of research has heavily influenced the demand for prenatal vitamins. However, most multivitamins only contain a fraction of the vitamin D that is needed to be therapeutic. The trivial amount of vitamin D in most prenatal vitamins is not enough to raise a vitamin D level by 10 ng/mL.1,2
An imbalance of dopamine has been hypothesized to be a cause of schizophrenia.49 The vitamin D receptor emerges in the brain stem at the same time as the peak period of dopamine cell birth in rat embryos.47
There has been a high correlation between vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia.50,51 The correlation has influenced a study to show if vitamin D deficiency was prevalent in those having an acute episode.52
The study subjects were divided into three groups: 40 patients who were reported to be having an acute episode, 41 patients in remission, and 40 healthy controls.52
Those who reported to be having an onset of schizophrenic episodes had far lower levels of vitamin D compared to schizophrenics in remission. The healthy controls had the highest levels of vitamin D.
Ignored Age-Related Panacea
Life Extension® has been writing about the health benefits of vitamin D for many decades. Fortunately, researchers are finally catching up with these findings and devoting resources to discovering and documenting new applications of vitamin D. What might be surprising is that the new research discussed in this article was released just within this last year.
There is an immense archive of literature documenting the health benefits of this single vitamin. Every day, more research findings are being published. In fact, by the time this article is published, there will be even more noteworthy studies released.
Current medical teachings need to be updated to include evidence that vitamin D provides support to not just bone health, but also to reducing all-cause mortality through its system-wide benefits. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that has receptors for it located on every cell. With the cumulative and consistent evidence backing its efficacy, this vitamin should be an essential part of everyone’s daily health regimen.
The cost of conventional treatment for age-related diseases is staggering and Medicare is on the hook for a huge unfunded liability.53
People today have an unprecedented opportunity to reduce their risk of needing conventional treatment using a low-cost vitamin supplement. The typical dose range is 5,000 to 8,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily taken with a meal for better absorption.
Annual blood tests can enable one to know if they are taking the proper dose of vitamin D they need to achieve optimal levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
While the use of vitamin D has increased dramatically, levels in common commercial multivitamins (400 to 600 IUs) are still far too low to provide real-world benefits.
Extensive research has demonstrated that higher vitamin D blood levels are associated with reduced mortality risk and specific diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and multiple sclerosis, along with other autoimmune diseases and psychological disorders.
Vitamin D dosing in the range of 5,000 to 8,000 IU each day should be taken with a meal for better absorption.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
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- Suzuki Y, Ichiyama T, Ohsaki A, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) in human coronary arterial endothelial cells: Implication for the treatment of Kawasaki disease. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2009;113(1-2):134-8.
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- Brook K, Camargo CA, Christopher KB, et al. Admission vitamin D status is associated with discharge destination in critically ill surgical patients. Ann Intensive Care. 2015;5(1):23.
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- Turetsky A, Goddeau RP, Jr., Henninger N. Low serum vitamin D is independently associated with larger lesion volumes afterischemic stroke. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2015;24(7):1555-63.
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