I have been closely tracking the research on vitamin D over the last 30 years. We now know it plays a critical role in the prevention of just about every serious health problem Americans face today. So–this tsunami of scientific evidence should be sweeping into mainstream medical practice by now.
But is it?
Unfortunately, far too many doctors don’t test for vitamin D until it’s too late (if ever). Plus, even if they do test, they don’t know how high your levels should really be to achieve optimal health and longevity. In fact, a new meta-analysis found that two-thirds of Americans have vitamin D below 30 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL). And anything below this point can increase your all-cause mortality risk.
Let’s look at all the evidence–which started to appear back in 1966. (We reached the moon three years later–in 1969. But nearly a half-century later, when I talk to many doctors about vitamin D and other vitamins, it can be like trying to reach the “man in the moon.”)
Since 1966, two generations of Americans have grown up fearing the sun. For that sad fact, we can thank dermatologists and other photophobics who sternly warn us to avoid all sun exposure. Or to use sun blocks so powerful that the rays of sunlight–which activate vitamin D–never stand a chance. All of this propaganda is aimed at reducing skin cancer risk.
Ironically, more than 90 percent of the skin cancers are easy-to-treat, superficial skin lesions that almost never invade or metastasize. They don’t look cancerous under a microscope. And they can be easily removed by simply “scraping” the surface of the skin. Really, we shouldn’t even call these lesions “cancers.” Indeed, they contribute to today’s epidemic of over-diagnosis and over-treatment of cancer.
(Subscribers to my newsletter can learn more about the cancer over-diagnosis epidemic in the December 2013 issue of my Insiders’ Guide newsletter. If you are not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started so you can gain free access to my extensive newsletter archive on the website.
Unfortunately, the mainstream medical establishment still considers vitamin D relevant only for preventing bone diseases.
But research conducted over the past half-century clearly links higher vitamin D to lower risks of many, more serious diseases. In fact, getting adequate vitamin D could probably help prevent breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia. As well as malignant melanoma skin cancer, the less common, aggressive type of skin cancer that does metastasize. Adequate vitamin D also appears to help protect you against cardiovascular diseases, immune disorders, diabetes and metabolic disorders, and neurological diseases. It even lowers your Alzheimer’s and dementia risk, as I reported in Monday’s Daily Dispatch.
And that’s not all…
Researchers from the University of San Diego recently pooled data on more than 500,000 men and women from 32 studies on vitamin D published between 1966 and 2013. They wanted to look at the link between vitamin D levels and all-cause mortality.
They found some men and women in the group had very low vitamin D blood serum levels–below 9ng/mL. But others had higher levels–above 30 ng/mL.
Not surprisingly, the men and women in that low group had an 80 percent higher all-cause mortality rate than the group with vitamin D levels above 30 ng/mL.
Plus, the vitamin D data from this analysis did not fall into a U-shaped or J-shaped curve. (U- or J-shaped curves indicate that the best outcomes are at levels in the middle, such that higher and lower extremes show worse outcomes. For example, the benefits of drinking alcohol fall into a U-shaped curve. And we see the highest benefits conferred in the middle, at moderate levels of drinking.)
However, when we look at the data for vitamin D, it all goes just in one direction. The higher the vitamin D level, the better the benefits. This trend continued for as far as the researchers had data–up to 60 to 70 ng/mL.
The Institute of Medicine recommends people should maintain levels above 20 ng/mL. Although, this research clearly shows levels above 30 ng/mL are far better for your overall health and longevity.
So, why are doctors still reluctant to promote vitamin D supplementation?
Some argue that the majority of research on vitamin D has been from observational studies. And they demand clinical trials, as we do for drugs.
Unfortunately, we may never get to all of what they demand, as the research funding for clinical trials on nutrition is woefully inadequate. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is charged with conducting research on nutrition and about 20 other natural therapies. But their entire annual budget for all of this kind of research can be as little as 1/20 the cost of doing a single clinical new drug trial today.
If NIH spends only 1/20 of their available research budget on nutrition, and the clinical trials can cost 20 times more than that entire budget, we are off by a factor of 400. So–no wonder we don’t have more clinical trial research on vitamins like D.
I can’t really recommend waiting for all that clinical trial data to start rolling in. I believe we have more than enough evidence to simply recommend higher vitamin D intake right now.
In addition, we are coming into that time of year when the sun is not high enough in the sky to help make vitamin D in your skin at all. (Even if you ignore the mainstream advice to slather yourself in sunscreen.) And research shows most people will benefit from a high-quality vitamin D supplement. Given the body’s processes for storage and mobilization of vitamin D, it’s best not to rely only on the sun–even during summer.
The simple and safe approach is to supplement with 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily. If you don’t like taking pills, you can get vitamin D in a liquid form, which can be taken straight or added to a small glass of natural fruit juice or milk in the morning.
P.S. In the upcoming November issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I will expose more dangerous myths about vitamin D. You’ll also learn more about the role this critical nutrient plays in just about every chronic disease affecting Americans today. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started so you don’t miss this important new report. And remember, newsletter subscribers can always access current and past issues on the website.
- “Vitamin D and Mortality Risk: Should Clinical Practice Change?” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 8/13/2014
- “Meta-analysis of all-cause mortality according to serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D,” Am J Public Health 2014;104:e43-e50