Shedding Some Light on
VITAMIN D O
ne commonly asked question I answer as a pharmacist is, “Where do I find your vitamin D?” Many of these customers have been tested and diagnosed with low levels of vitamin D by their doctor, and told to supplement themselves. However, many others have seen or heard from a so-called ‘trusted media outlet’ that vitamin D will fix whatever health problem they may have. There may be good medical reasons to increase D levels. Solid scientific studies have documented improvement in patients with certain medical conditions. Doctors experience some marginal success in treating depression, seasonal affective disorder, and fibromyalgia by supplementing select patients who test low for vitamin D. Research also suggests the possibility that cardiovascular disease and diabetes may be associated with chronically low D levels. However, before heading out on your quest for the vitamin aisle, please consider the following. In the Inland Northwest, long, warm clothing is frequently needed, and although the UV rays from the sun that help our bodies make vitamin D naturally can pass through clouds,
they cannot pass through clothing, or even windows. Exposing your head and arms to an extra 15-20 minutes of sunshine 3-4 times a week can be enough to raise D levels without supplementation. Tanning beds, however, are not recommended, and are associated with risks of skin cancer—so don’t get any bright ideas. If sunlight is insufficient, consider increasing—with moderation—your vitamin D by way of dietary choices. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are full of vitamin D. Cheese, eggs and even fortified grain cereals can all work with the sun to keep your D levels higher. The FDA recommends around 600 International Units (UI) per day of dietary vitamin D for most adults, ages 19-70. If blood tests still show low levels, over-the-counter supplements are common in 400 IU to 10,000 IU pills. Costs may vary from $10-$15 per bottle for a quality product. Consult your health care team to determine how much extra D you may need. Researchers are currently working to further understand the complete scope of vitamin D’s potential benefits in our overall health. Its role in calcium regulation is well known,
which is why milk is so frequently fortified with D, but recent studies indicate vitamin D receptors exist in nearly every major body organ, suggesting D plays a role in our bodies through mechanisms we do not yet fully understand. This lack of information lends itself to widespread and unwise speculation about dosing quantities and use. Vitamin D is not a cure-all. Be careful what and who you choose to believe. The FDA will require more studies to be completed on vitamin D’s unknown range of function relating to chronic disease states. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to roll up your sleeves and head outside. Let your skin do the work, and go make some vitamin D.
BIO: John Bronsell, Pharm.D. has worked in pharmacy for 10 years, the last 6 at an independent pharmacy here in North Idaho. He enjoys educating patients, to empower them with knowledge regarding the rather complex and
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5/14/14 9:32 PM
Published on May 25, 2014
Published on May 25, 2014
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