Wednesday, April 30, 2014

With Foods with Vitamin D so Easy to Find, do you still Need Supplements?

If I just told you that they invented a new kind of treatment that could help strengthen your bones, keep heart disease and kidney disease at bay, and to boot, help with your blood pressure, wouldn't you pay a lot for it? There have been medical research reports out recently, that there is such a remedy already - and it is a well known micronutrient that you find in some varieties of milk, and fish, and also in exposure to the sun - of course you know what it is - it is vitamin D. But as wonderful as vitamin D is, and as plentiful as foods with vitamin D are, about one out of every two people in America is somewhat deficient, and about 10% of all children are quite deeply deficient. Doctors are now taking to routinely prescribing vitamin D tests to patients; apparently there has been about 50% more tests done this year for vitamin D levels, than the year before.

When doctors find some kind of deficiency, usually, they decide that a changed diet would be too slow to be effective. They offer supplements instead and America is now knocking back vitamin D supplements worth a quarter of a trillion dollars a year. This may not really be a good idea; the science behind it as shaky at best, and doctors seem to be letting the idea run away with them. There haven't been any real randomized trials done in research yet, and no one really knows what the ideal level is supposed to be either. As an example of the kind of simple and unsophisticated level we are at in understanding vitamin D, doctors only believe that you need to have a certain high level of vitamin D because that is what they see in healthy people. And yet, that could just be circumstantial evidence. What if it were just that healthy people happen to have high levels of vitamin D by accident, and not that the vitamin D were actually responsible? They do happen to come together, vitamin D levels and good health, but who says that there is a cause-and-effect relationship?

They are trying in-depth clinical studies now to find the foods with vitamin D that should help the most; one study includes 20,000 elderly people, men and women, to see how fish oil supplements that contain vitamin D and omega-3 should help. So what exactly is it that vitamin D does around the body? Basically, vitamin D is supposed to be the signaling juice around the body. It helps cells turn on or turn off as they are needed to. About one gram of fish oil a day should probably do the trick. This is probably overkill too; but it does help older women with osteoporosis, protect themselves from fragile bones that are prone to fracture. In fact, I should probably have my mother put aside her revulsion for fish oil, and have her protect herself. They've also found that this kind of a high dose of fish oil can even help protect against breast cancer.

If doses go any higher than that, they can often do some harm too. In men for example, very high levels of vitamin D in the system, can dispose you to diabetes. And it is easy when you read health advice in a piece of this kind, to get really carried away.

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