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The Great D-bate Weighing the merits of vitamin D

flourish

6 Summer 2011

that some people with type 2 diabetes also have low vitamin D levels. However, there are no studies proving Vitamin D starts its life as a vitamin but is actually that taking vitamin D prevents diabetes. a hormone. Previtamin D Also, because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can hide in fat stores, leading to a low reading of vitamin is formed in sun-exposed skin and converted into D in blood. Obesity then could easily lead someone vitamin D, the type found to believe that low blood levels of vitamin D result in in supplements. That form increased levels of diabetes and heart disease, while is then changed in the liver the total amount of vitamin D in the whole body is not to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the deficient at all, Koren says. All of this is not to say that vitamin D deficiency is not type measured in a blood test. The kidneys convert a legitimate health concern that needs to be addressed. this form of vitamin D into Based on what is known to date about vitamin D, the the active form—1,25-dihyrecommendations are: droxyvitamin D—or calcitriol. • Most people should be screened for vitamin D levels Vitamin D receptors are if they have or are at risk of any chronic health condipresent on cells throughout tions. Shoot for a level between 30 and 50 nanograms the body, which means that per milliliter, although a recent report from the Instithis “vitamin” has the potentute of Medicine states that levels as low as 20 ng/ml tial to impact every organ are also acceptable. and system — for good or • If you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency and need perhaps bad. to take supplements, some studies show D3 is better. For most people 600-800 IU of vitamin D a day is sufficient to maintain normal levels. If the vitamin D supplement is not already mixed in oil, take it with foods containing some fat. For a list • Don’t take more than what is needed. Do not of sympto ms, visit penrosestf exceed 4,000 units a day if you are an adult, rancis.org /vitaminD. unless prescribed by a physician. Maximal dose is smaller for younger children.

Do you h a vitaminave deficienc D y?

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/ ma-k

Vitamin D is shaping up to be this decade’s version of a miracle cure. Part vitamin/part hormone, vitamin D is reported to fix everything from weak bones to depression to cancer. Not so fast, researchers say. Not everything is known about vitamin D, and although hundreds of studies have been done, very few were designed to actually show a cause-and-effect between taking vitamin D and improved health. “Our concern is that beyond vitamin D’s role in bone health, we do not have goodenough understanding of what else it does in the body,” says Michael Koren, MD, an endocrinologist with Advanced Care in Endocrinology & Diabetes in Colorado Springs. “We can expect to discover that vitamin D supplementation results in some good things, but possibly in some unexpected bad outcomes.” It’s clear that vitamin D defiDr. Michael Koren ciency contributes to inadequate bone development in children and later to osteoporosis in seniors (vitamin D is actually required to absorb calcium). But recent claims say that vitamin D can help decrease the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, depression and arthritis. The problem is these claims lack solid “causation” research, Koren says. For instance, studies have found

Vitamin or Hormone?

Flourish Summer 2011  

I write, edit and art direct this quarterly custom health magazine for women 40+ in the Colorado Springs area, distributed by Penrose-St. Fr...

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