You have probably seen many articles over the past couple of years on the importance of Vitamin D for so many conditions. As we enter the darker months, after a darkish Spring/Summer, I thought this overview piece was a timely reminder of our need for Vitamin D especially at this time of year, but also it gives us some of the main headlines from the past year on Vitamin D. Hope it’s useful for you…I’ve included the references in case you want to look any of them up.
The latest headlines you need to be aware of
- Low vitamin D now linked to 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease, 64% higher risk of heart attack, 57% higher risk of early death and 81% higher risk of death from heart disease. 1
- Survey finds high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women in Belgium, raising significant health concerns for all European women and offspring. 2
- Four Chief Medical Officers have written to health professionals throughout the UK with urgent concerns over widespread vitamin D deficiency.
- Lack of sunlight exposure means levels of key immune support, vitamin D, commonly fall in winter months in European countries. 3
- Study shows that cancer risk is more than halved, simply by increasing vitamin D. Canadian Cancer Society now endorses vitamin D. 4
Vitamin D – Widespread Deficiency
The problem is widespread, with severe deficiency linked to rickets, and a wealth of research now showing that even mild deficiency may be linked to a wide range of chronic health problems. Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, auto-immune disease, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects and periodontal disease, to name but a few. It is now clear that we are suffering from a national epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and these latest headlines highlight the urgent need for action. The time to act is now.
Chief Medical Officer Urges Health Professionals to Take Action
Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies has written to UK health professionals highlighting the now urgent need to address vitamin D deficiency:
- “A significant proportion of people in the UK probably have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.”
- “People at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including pregnant women and children under 5, are already advised to take daily supplements.”
- “Our experts are clear – low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of poor bone health, including rickets in young children.”
How Much do you Need?
New medical research indicates that human daily requirements of vitamin D may be up to ten times more than what is currently recommended. A recent study carried out by researchers from the University of California and published in the Journal of Nutrition has found that the current recommended intakes of vitamin D for people with darker skins should be increased to between 2100 and 3100 International Units (IU) per day, a huge increase from the current daily recommendation of 200 IU. The researchers also found that people of European ancestry with a high sun exposure need 1300 IU vitamin D daily during winter months. 5
If you consider that the skin will naturally produce approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response to 20 – 30 minutes summer sun exposure, current daily recommendations of 200 IU are further brought into question.
In his recent article on vitamin D entitled, “What have we learned about vitamin D dosing?” the respected scientist, Joseph Pizzorno recommends that an average daily maintenance dose of 5000 IU vitamin D is more realistic to promote optimal vitamin D levels. 6 (Ed: I normally advise a blood test to check levels and then a specific amount depending on results.)
1. P. Brondum-Jacobsen, M. Benn, et al. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease, Myocardial Infarction, and Early Death: Population-Based Study and Meta-Analyses of 18 and 17 Studies. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 2012; DOI:
2. Vandevijvere S, Amsalkhir S et al. High prevalence of vitamin d deficiency in pregnant women: a national cross-sectional survey. PLoS One. 012;7(8):e43868. Epub 2012 Aug 24.
3. European Society of Hypertension (2012, April 25). Vitamin D supplements can reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
4. Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.
5. Hall, Kimlin, Aronov et al. Journal of Nutrition Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/jn.109.115253 ‘Vitamin D intake needed to maintain target serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations in participants with low sun exposure and dark skin pigmentation is substantially higher than current recommendations’
6. Pizzorno J. Integrative Medicine Vol. 9 No. 1 Feb/Mar 2010 ‘What have we learned about vitamin D dosing?’
(Source: Nutri enews November 12)