Dermatologists have spotty, “skin deep” understanding of vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is a full-blown epidemic in the U.S., as I often report. Thankfully, some doctors are finally getting concerned about their patients’ vitamin D status.

In some predicable push-back, many mainstream minions now “warn” about over-testing and overtreatment of vitamin D deficiency. (They should really be concerned about over-diagnosis and overtreatment of problems like cancer and heart disease.)

According to Barbara Gilchrest, M.D., a dermatologist with Mass General Hospital in Boston, “this preoccupation with vitamin D status has led to an enormous amount of testing, which is expensive and not as consistent or reliable as we might like.”

Further, Dr. Gilchrest recommends that “if everybody just took one supplement a day, the tests would be unnecessary,” adding that sun and diet should be enough.

She recommends 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

I have a few issues with Dr. Gilchrest’s recommendations. First, there is really no excuse for the fact that vitamin D testing is not as “reliable or consistent as we might like.”

Second, Gilchrest’s paltry supplementation recommendation is based on doses of vitamin D associated with bone health. It ignores all the evidence for its role in just about every other mind and body condition.

For example, 321 studies demonstrate the less sun exposure a person receives, the higher the risk of developing MS. Since 2006, research links higher vitamin D levels with a significantly decreased risk of MS. In patients with MS, research links low vitamin D with increased symptoms and progression of MS. Furthermore, it shows vitamin D supplementation seems to decrease the relapse rate of patients with MS.

So, here we have a dermatology expert recommending sun exposure. Which seems like great progress. But at the same time, she misses the forest for the trees. And her knowledge of vitamin D appears to be only “skin deep.” No wonder we are in such a mess.

Unfortunately, Gilchrest isn’t the only “expert” I’ve come across who gets it only half right…

Worries about “overprescribing” vitamin D make no sense

According to Susan Roper, a dermatologist in Clearwater, Florida, older patients, with thinning skin, have low vitamin D levels to begin with. She claims that, because patients must fast before blood testing, the influence of diet and dietary supplements “are no longer in their systems.” This triggers some physicians to prescribe higher doses of vitamin D, which she claims are dangerous.

But that line of argument makes no sense. The liver stores vitamin D, so there would be no effect of short-term fasting on vitamin D levels.

Plus, actual clinical cases of vitamin D toxicity observed are less than one in a million. So — as a reminder, I stand by my recommendation to supplement daily with up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D year-round.

Go ahead with supplementation and sun exposure

In the end, Dr. Gilchrest did make a few sensible points.

For example, for younger patients, she recommends that even a fair-skinned teenager, who wants to avoid diseases later in life associated with vitamin D deficiency (such as breast and colon cancer), can get safe sun exposure to maximize vitamin D photosynthesis.

Indeed, sun exposure offers many healthy benefits, from improving mood and naturally boosting the immune system. Some benefits relate directly to vitamin D and some relate to effects of sunlight itself.

For decades, dermatologists warned us all to avoid the sun because of concerns about skin cancer. But over 90 percent of these “cancers” are easily detected and treated. They almost never harm the patient. In fact, many experts concede we should not even call these growths “cancer.”

The remaining nine percent of growths are the really worrisome and deadly malignant melanoma skin cancers. But French researchers recently discovered that the outdated medical therapy of giving artificial ultraviolet (UV) light to children during the mid-20th century caused at least 80 percent of these deadly cancers. Thankfully, this practice has stopped in children, and melanoma rates in adults are now dropping, regardless of sun exposure during adulthood.

I give you all the details on this breakthrough in the upcoming May issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, so if you aren’t already a subscriber, sign up now to make sure you don’t miss it.

In the meantime, now that Spring is finally here, go out and get some healthy sun exposure. And don’t forget to keep taking your vitamin D3 as well. As I said, it’s nearly impossible to overdose, and chances are, you need far more than even most doctors will tell you.


“Low Vitamin D Concerns Lead to Overtesting and Overtreatment,” Medscape ( 3/4/2017