Vitamin D Levels – How Much Vitamin D Should I Take ?

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Benefits of Vitamin D – Low Vitamin D Symptoms

by Valerie on June 13, 2011

vitamin d levelsIn recent years, the negative symptoms of vitamin D deficiency have been studied and surprising information has emerged. Study after study show how important vitamin D is in preventing chronic diseases and have thrust this vitamin into more prominence and a lot of people are asking : How much Vitamin D should I take and what exactly does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D deficiency can cause or contribute to a number of ailments including muscle weakness, joint and bone pain, hormonal imbalance, weight gain and depression after menopause. It has been proven that vitamin D deficiency leads to brittle bones, the basic cause of osteoarthritis.

Vitamin D Types: Vitamin D2 vs. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, is a type of vitamin D made by lower species such as fungi in response to ultraviolet light. Vertebrates don’t make it. The second type of vitamin D is vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. It’s the type made by humans and other animals when they’re exposed to sunlight. Both forms can be converted into the active form of vitamin D called calcitriol, but some experts believe vitamin D2 is not as efficiently converted to calcitriol as vitamin D3 is.

Why It’s Important

An adequate supply of vitamin D allows the body to better absorb calcium, thus leading to stronger bones and making it instrumental in curtailing osteoporosis. It has also been shown to slow the progression of, and even prevention of, certain types of cancer, namely, breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. Muscle weakness, pain, and high blood pressure also result from lack of vitamin D. In children, vitamin D deficiency results in increased severity of childhood asthma and an increased chance of developing type 1 diabetes.

Vitamin D Daily Requirement

There are two forms of vitamin D. Both D2 and D3 are effective, but D3 has been found to be up to three times more effective to raise vitamin D levels.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers put the two types of vitamin D to the test. They gave 64 seniors with low vitamin D levels either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 as a supplement for twelve months. During this time they measured their blood levels of vitamin D.

This study showed how difficult it is to raise vitamin D levels even with supplements. After giving these seniors 1600 I.U. of vitamin D a day, 20% still had low vitamin D levels by the completion of the study. Secondly, it showed that vitamin D3 was more effective at raising vitamin D levels than the D2 form, although the difference wasn’t large.

Recommended daily requirements (RDA) of vitamin D depends on age and risk factors. Just like any other supplement, too much vitamin d can cause harmful vitamin d side effects. According to the Institute of Medicine, 600 international units are recommended for adults under the age of seventy. For adults over the age of seventy, especially for those with cognitive impairment, 800 IUs are beneficial. For children, the upper limit for ages one to three years is 2500 IUs, from ages four to eight a child should get 3000 IUs daily, and for children over nine, the daily requirement is 4000 IUs. Most multi-vitamins provide only 400 IUs of vitamin D, so a supplement D vitamin along with vitamin D-rich foods is being recommended more and more often for all who don’t get enough of the vitamin from the sun or diet.

Sources of Vitamin D

Exposure to direct sunlight for approximately 15 minutes per day several times per week should enable the body to produce enough Vitamin D on its own. However, because too much exposure to the sun can cause cancer and not everyone is able to get the sun exposure necessary year round, other alternatives must be considered.

Supplements are another way to get the necessary daily requirement of Vitamin D. These can be purchased at the neighborhood health food store. For people who are severely deficient, your doctor may prescribe a stronger dose to build up the nutrient in the body. Keep in mind no more than 2000 IU per day should be consumed unless instructed to do so by a physician.

Not many foods contain high amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D fortified milk and yogurt is one way to get the necessary nutrient. Another is through super foods wild-caught salmon and wild-caught mackerel. They provide high levels of the daily requirement. Another super food is mushrooms, but they must have been exposed to ultraviolet light. Eggs and beef or calf liver are good sources, as well.

How to Determine Severe Vitamin D Deficiency

The most accurate way to determine deficiency is through use of the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. This is a blood test that can be performed or ordered by a physician. Normal levels are in the 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) range. Anything under 30.0 ng/mL is too low and a course of corrective action should be discussed with your doctor.

Vitamin D Deficiency in Women

Low levels of vitamin D may worsen the prognosis in breast cancer. In tests, breast cancer patients showed a 94% increased occurrence of their cancer spreading where there was a lack of vitamin D.

It has also been shown to protect against other cancers such as colon and prostate cancer. Dr. Michael Holick, of the Boston University School of Medicine, reports that “activated vitamin D is one of the most potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth.”

Vitamin D Deficiency and Multiple Sclerosis

It’s not surprising that attention would focus on vitamin D for multiple sclerosis patients. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that people with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood reduced their risk of getting multiple sclerosis by 62% compared to those with the lowest levels.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own myelin, the tissue that protects nerve cells. Vitamin D affects how the immune system works, which could explain its protective effects. It seems possible that vitamin D helps to prevent multiple sclerosis, but does it also help to treat the disease?

Vitamin D for Multiple Sclerosis

So far, research in this area has been limited. In one study where researchers gave 49 participants with multiple sclerosis variable doses of vitamin D, they found higher vitamin D doses lowered the frequency of relapses, disability scores and reduced the autoimmune response in these patients.

Vitamin D supplements were also safe in this group of multiple sclerosis sufferers. Unfortunately, it’s hard to draw conclusions about vitamin D for multiple sclerosis treatment based on one trial.

Vitamin D for Asthma

Asthma is a difficult disease, especially for those who participate in sports – and most asthmatics would love to have a natural alternative to reduce their risk of asthma attacks. Vitamin D for asthma has shown promise for improving lung function in people with asthma, but a new study shows it may be especially important for people who have asthma and sensitivity to a common environmental mold.

Low Levels of Vitamin D and Asthma

According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, low levels of vitamin D increases the risk of developing this allergic reaction that can lead to lung scarring in people who have asthma.

They found when an asthmatic has low levels of vitamin D, it increases the activity of a protein that drives the allergic response to the Aspergillus mold. When they added vitamin D to cells isolated from people with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis it caused less of this protein to be produced, which decreased the allergic response. Good news for people who suffer from asthma!

Low Levels of Vitamin D and Environmental Mold

Vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing this severe allergic reaction in asthmatics, but it could make life a little easier for people with cystic fibrosis too. People who suffer from cystic fibrosis are also more susceptible to allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Low levels of vitamin D are common in people with cystic fibrosis, since they don’t absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D well.

Vitamin D Deficiency before Surgery Could Delay Recovery

A new study shows that almost half of all people getting orthopedic surgery are vitamin D deficient – and it could affect the outcome of their surgery.

Vitamin D Deficiency before Surgery Could Delay Recovery

According to a study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, vitamin D deficiency among people getting orthopedic surgery is surprisingly common and it could make it harder to heal. When they looked at charts from over 700 patients scheduled for orthopedic surgery, they found forty-percent were vitamin D deficient and an even higher number had levels that were not optimal.

This included patients undergoing all types of orthopedic surgery from hip and knee replacements to surgery to repair a fracture. Even some healthy athletes getting surgery for sports-related injuries were vitamin D deficient.

Why are doctors concerned about low vitamin D levels before orthopedic surgery? Vitamin D is critical for successful healing of bones and muscles and being vitamin D deficient can slow down the healing process. Adequate vitamin D levels are especially important in the two to four week period after surgery when bone is actively remodeling as part of the healing process. To have the best chance for proper healing, a person should correct a low vitamin D level before entering the O.R.

Correcting Low Vitamin D Levels before Surgery

Researchers in this study emphasize the importance of correcting vitamin D deficiency before getting bone or muscle surgery. Correcting low vitamin D levels is slow and usually requires high dose vitamin D supplements for at least a month before surgery.

Not every surgeon checks a vitamin D level prior to surgery, so you may have to ask to have this test included in your pre-surgical blood work. The sooner a level is drawn before surgery the better – so you’ll have time to correct any vitamin D deficiency.

Deficiency in Vitamin D and Stroke

Recent research shows that Caucasians who are deficient in vitamin D double their risk of stroke. Surprisingly, the same doesn’t hold true for African-Americans. A low vitamin D level doesn’t seem to affect their risk of having a stroke.

Vitamin D is the third most common cause of death in this country, and even when it doesn’t kill, a stroke can lead to permanent disability. The risk of stroke is higher among African-Americans, and researchers had hoped that correcting any deficiency in vitamin D would lower their risk as it does in Caucasians. According to recent research from Johns Hopkins, correcting vitamin D deficiency in blacks doesn’t seem to reduce their chances of having a stroke.

Why would correcting deficiency of vitamin D in African-Americans not affect their stroke risk as it does in whites? For some unknown reason, a low vitamin D level doesn’t have the same negative impact in blacks as it does in whites. Low vitamin D levels are associated with bone fractures in Caucasians, but blacks don’t have the same increased risk when they’re deficient in vitamin D.

It’s Still Important to Correct a Deficiency in Vitamin D

Black people are more likely to be vitamin D deficient because they absorb less of it from the sun due to the blocking effects of melanin – the pigment that gives skin its color. It takes more sun exposure for a dark-skinned person to absorb adequate quantities of vitamin D than a person with lighter skin.

Having a deficiency in vitamin D may not increase the risk of stroke in African-Americans, but it still may increase the risk of other chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and some cancers – as research suggests that it does in whites.

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