Vitamin D remains underused and not fully understood by many people. This column will review news and information regarding vitamin D.

Osteoporosis remains a multi-billion dollar health problem. For 15 years calcium and a small dose of vitamin D were recommended, but studies have shown this is insufficient. It is now known that levels of Vitamin D over 32 ng (and preferably over 50 ng)) will prevent most osteoporosis. At the same time, amounts of 400 units of vitamin D have been shown repeatedly to have practically no benefit. 800 Units a day is only slightly better. Obtaining several thousand vitamin D levels from people in the last 7 years have given me the opportunity to compare this experience with the research studies. About 400 levels had osteoporosis or osteopenia on a DEXA scan. Of these 400, only 3 people have had levels less than 32 ng. (less than 1%). So want to prevent osteoporosis? (who doesn’t?). Get your doctor to order a 25-hydroxyvitamin D level (it’s still not done routinely), and get the level up to over 32 ng.-preferably over 40 ng, 50 ng. if even better. With these levels, most of the calcium you eat in your diet will now be absorbed (80% instead of 15%). The few populations that do have levels this high (and don’t take calcium supplements) have a very low level of osteoporosis. How important is this? How many people do you know over 70 that have broken a hip? Mostly it’s not a case of falling and breaking a hip. It’s been shown that often the hip breaks spontaneously and the person falls, and everything happens so quickly the person doesn’t realize the pain came a split second before the fall.

Cedrick and Frank Garland are two scientists/doctors who went to a lecture in the 1980’s as students where they learned that the amount of sunlight is strongly related to the incidence of a number of cancers. They devoted several years to research the subject, and they changed history. They published their data in the 1990’s, and this is the reason you have heard so much about vitamin D in the newspapers the past 7 years; a great deal of further research was stimulated by this. Breast, prostate, and colon cancer have been most studied and the proof is substantial that the incidence of these cancers can be greatly decreased with higher vitamin D levels. A critical “earth shattering” study was just published a few months ago. The only 12 studies on vitamin D levels and breast cancer were combined and it was determined that if a woman maintains a level of over 47 ng. of vitamin D, her chance of breast cancer is reduced by 50%. This is the type of information that we should have read on front pages of newspapers, but unfortunately in medical research, sometimes the most important discoveries get the least publicity. It is estimated that this 50% reduction in breast cancer could occur within 5 years.

Late last year the important sounding Institute of Medicine came out with a report on Vitamin D in which they admitted they were disregarding every major study Vitamin D study done in the past 15 years. They tried to make the case that vitamin D was “no big deal.” Since then this has become the most repudiated document I have seen in my career. Every true vitamin D expert in the country has specifically pointed out why it is invalid. The Harvard School of Public Health proved point by point that the study was a collection of wrong conclusions based on no evidence or incorrect evidence. The Endocrine Society disagrees with the report. Many other prominent organizations have repudiated it. As far as the motivation of the committee members, that’s a very long story, but suffice it to say that most of the members had financial interests in industries who stand to be hurt if the population increases their vitamin D level. For instance, a pharmaceutical company has been working over a decade on new Vitamin D ”look-alike” drugs that can be patented. If they ever succeed, it would only be a financial success if the general population doesn’t take vitamin D on their own. Some people who authored the report had financial interests in this company. (I don’t make this stuff up, I only tell you about it). One person has told me she heard that Vitamin D is “controversial.” There is no honest controversy involved with vitamin D. It should be noted that Vitamin D has absolutely nothing to do with Vitamin E, which has recently again been publicized as having a negative effect on good health. Vitamin E NEVER had any valid studies backing up its use as a supplement.

I’ve written about many other benefits of vitamin D in the previous updates. From the research that’s been published, and reinforced by follow up levels in the people I have on vitamin D, in order to reach a level of 47 ng. of higher, it is often necessary to take 5000 Units of Vitamin D daily. (available for $2 a month over the counter). I often am told that some people are still taking a dose far lower than this. The often talked about dose of 2000 units a day is something that some organizations have recommended for people who never have had a blood test.I recommend blood levels for everyone. I only occasionally see someone who attains an adequate level at the lower 2000 unit dose.

So my final question is this: What are you waiting for?