Friday, September 30, 2016

Know Your D Level: Although not a miracle nutrient, vitamin D is essential for helping to prevent many health problems including heart disease, cancer, depression and memory loss


Dr. Joel’s Health and Wellness Catalyst Blog:  September, 2016

Know Your D Level: Although not a miracle nutrient, vitamin D is extremely important for many health issues such as heart disease, cancer, depression and memory

The list of vitamin D related health issues seems to grow almost on a monthly basis – bone health, heart disease, blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance, depression, susceptibility to common cancers and auto-immune diseases, memory, pain, etc.  How can this be, you say – well, it turns out that vitamin D helps to regulate and is a co-factor for 10-20 % of all genetic activity, which is a huge amount and central to almost all of our bodily functions. 

**  Everyone should know what their blood level is and be taking it unless they have at least a level of 40 mg/dL.

A good example of the importance of vitamin D comes from a recent study looking at its important effect in memory and cognition.  What was most interesting to me was that not only was higher level of vitamin D at the beginning of the study associated with better memory or cognition level, but it was also associated with the amount of cognitive decline that occurred over time (lower vitamin D level was associated with greater change or worsening of cognitive measures over the four year period in which the participants were followed).

Research has tied vitamin D to variety of functions and influences within the brain that may be important for maintaining healthy functioning.  These include the vitamin D receptors found in many parts of the brain that affect brain activity and vitamin D’s promotion of anti-oxidant function which protects tissues from aging or ‘rust’ damage (very important for maintaining nerve cell function and overall nervous system activities).

Vitamin D and vitamin D blood levels are also important for the two leading causes of death in the United States – cancer and heart disease.  Benefits of higher levels of vitamin D have been shown in certain types of cancer - one study from Norway found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with longer length of survival in breast, colon and lung cancer, as well as in lymphoma (Tretli S, et al, 2012).  With regard to heart disease, vitamin D level may be a marker of and/or contributor to high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, irregular heart beat disorders and/or overall death or mortality – lower vitamin D levels increase risk.

I have also wondered why so many people are vitamin D deficient and I thought that it might relate to environmental chemicals (in addition to using so much sun screen and other influences – sun helps to make the active form of vitamin D) because many of these chemicals are hormone or endocrine disrupters and vitamin D is also a hormone.  A recent study has found a link between the intake of Bisphenol A - BPA (found in some food can linings and plastic water bottles) and phthalates (found in some plastics and cosmetics) and vitamin D blood levels (Johns LE et al, 2016).

It is therefore important to know your vitamin D level (25 hydroxy vitamin D),  take extra vitamin D if you need it (vitamin D3 – 1000 to 5000 IUs per day) and make sure that your overall nutrition and lifestyle program is effective for your health history and current health issues.

1. Wilson VK, et al.  Relationship between 25 hydroxyvitamin D and cognitive function in older adults: the Health ABC study J Am Geriatr Soc 2014;62:3839-53.

2.  Tretli S, et al.  Serum levels of 25 hydroyvitamin D and survival in Norwegian patients with cancer of the breast, colon, lung and lymphoma: a population based study.  Cancer Causes Control  2012;23:363-70.

3.  Lugg ST, et al.  Optimal vitamin D levels for cardiovascular disease protection.  Dis Markers  Sept 8, 2015; epublication.

4.  Johns LE, et al.  Relationships between urinary phthalate metabolite and bisphenol A concentrations and vitamin D levels in US adults: NHANES, 2005-2010.  J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2016 Sep 20 (epublication).

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