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The Facts about vitamin D

Its a well known fact that vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium to strengthen bones. But that’s just one of the many benefits of vitamin D. Consider recent studies from Harvard University and the University of Heidelberg, in Germany, which established a clear liknk between vitamin D deficiency and the increased risk of heart attacks among males. For men, at risk for heart disease,  levels should be checked at least three times a year.

I was in a meeting the other day when one of the partiipants had to leave early to take his 3-year old daughter to the doctor to be treated for the flu. Vitamin D is important in helping to strengthen the immune system. Children are vulnerable to all kinds of cold and flu germs during the winter months. They are pretty effective at passing germs around for adults and other children to cope with.  Children who are exposed to sunlight (a natural source of vitamin D) are less likely to get a cold. Each morning, during the winter months, my mother loaded me an my five siblings up with cod liver oil ( a good source of vitamin D) and occasionally Father Johns cough medicine and caster oil to treat  coughs. We all hated the taste of cod liver and castor oil.  But every kid in the neighborhood was under threat by their parents to take their daily dose of vitamin D rich cod liver oil to protect them against colds, rickets, and a host of other diseases.

Many Black children during the 50’s and 60’s suffered from rickets, a bone deformity caused by vitamin D deficiency.  Bow legs were a common condition resulting from inadequate levels of vitamin D.  Mothers did not have the science to back them up but they knew that a tablespoon of  cod liver oil was an excellent source of vitamin D and made a daily dose a household requirement.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its daily vitamin D recommendation from 200 IUs to 400 IUs per day. But  some doctors are now recommending  the upper limits of 2000 IUs per day.

Adequate vitamin D starts with the mother, which is why the Canadian Pediatric Society has issued dosage guidelines for pregnant and lactating mothers.  Sufficient vitamin D levels during pregnancy can have lifetime implications on the prevention of disease for mother and child.  4000 to 6000 IUs are considered enough to provide sufficient vitamin D in breast milk.  There have been misunderstandings about the toxicity of vitamin D but the Canadian study dosed as high as 10,000 IUs for five months without toxicity.

Government and pediatric organizations are behind the curve with the recommended daily dosage of only 200 to 400 IUs.  Studies have shown that millions of American children are dangerously deficient in vitamin D which can decrease calcium absorption.  In adults this vitamin D/calcium deficiency can result in serious skeletal development, muscle, weakness and poor mineralization of the bones.  This reduced bone density ultimately results in osteoporosis (porous bones).

For those of us who suffer through the winter months of gloomy, grey days depression can be a major health problem both physically and mentally.  The disruption of sunlight affects our body clock and its ability to function properly.  Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD) is a common winter mental disorder that results in seasonal depression.  In 1998 Australian researchers determined, in a double blind study, that vitamin D3 significantly enhanced positive mental attitudes with only 400 to 800IUs  taken daily during the late winter months.  This study showed a compelling correlation between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal mood disorder.  During the last century depression has increased due to the reduction in exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.  The modernization of our society has depleted our vitamin D levels by putting more workers into buildings, pollution obscuring the sun, while many people are being advised to avoid the sun.

If these facts are not bad enough a recent study revealed that older people who are depressed are more likely to develop the kind of visceral fat around the internal organs that can lead to type 2 diabetes.  Some researchers believe that the accumulation of belly fat is a result of cortisol, a hormone that is produced in response to stress.

Studies show that vitamin D deficiency has a direct influence on whether you die from the flu, pneumonia, colds or some other infection.  Austrian researchers determined that vitamin D deficient patients were more likely to die of heart related complications.  Especially, darker skinned people whose natural skin pigmentation filters out the ultra violet rays of the sun.  Vitamin D acts as a natural antibiotic and antiviral compound to fight respiratory infections.  Vitamin D acts as a deterrent to eighteen different forms of cancer, along with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus and high blood pressure.

Vitamin D increases the production of natural killer cells that strengthens the immune systems to protect against harmful pathogens.  Vitamin D3 is the recommended type of vitamin D to take along with some form of good fat for more efficient absorption.  The body uses cholesterol to make vitamin  D which acts more as a hormone which is transported to various receptor cells throughout the body.  Optimal levels are 45 to 50 ng/ml.