As we enter the darker months of winter it is essential that we optimize our vitamin D levels to:
1. increase our immunity
2. protect against H1N1 (“swine flu”) and other influenzas
3. boost our mood
4. prevent numerous serious health concerns
5. protect against genetic predispositions
In this video newsletter I share new research on vitamin D deficiency – which effects 87% of Americans – and how to increase your levels. Vitamin D experts consider this one of the most important health discoveries of the past 100 years.
History of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency disease, also known as rickets, was reported as far back as the 1600’s as a bone softening disease. It was originally treated with cod liver oil in the 1800’s but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that vitamin D deficiency was discovered as the cause. Vitamin D however is not really a vitamin, it is a hormone. In fact vitamin D in the active form, known as calcitriol, is now understood as the most potent steroid hormone in the human body. At the optimal levels it may be responsible for preventing many of our modern day diseases.
About ten years ago researchers discovered that people who live in climates where natural sun exposure was the greatest had less chronic disease. In northern climates studies show up to 61% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, and during the winter months up to 87% are deficient.
Surprising Health Findings
For the past 80 years it was believed that vitamin D3 was only important to the body for regulating calcium and protecting the bones. This is true if your vitamin D3 levels are below 50ng/ml. However, new research reported by the Vitamin D Council has shown that higher levels of vitamin D can provide even more benefits. For example, when vitamin D3 levels are between 50-80 ng/ml the excess calcitriol (steroid hormone form of vitamin D) heads towards the cells, not the bones. It is this overflow of calcitriol that has created such a worldwide stir about the pervasive health benefits of “optimized” vitamin D. At lower levels of sun exposure and vitamin D, this overflow simply doesn’t happen. The understanding of the role of excess calcitriol in the cells is only now understood and many vitamin D experts believe this to be the most important health discovery in 100 years.
Vitamin D is technically not a ‘vitamin’,” and is in a class by itself. Its metabolic product, calcitriol, is actually a secosteroid hormone that protects over 2,000 genes (about 10% of the human genome) in the human body from expressing negative traits. This means that if your family has a genetic predisposition for a disease, you can prevent it by optimizing your vitamin D levels.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
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/high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, depression, obesity, chronic muscle and/or joint pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more. New reports from the council have linked vitamin D deficiency to higher risk of H1N1 (“swine flu”) and autism.
No Sun = No Fun
Fifty thousand years ago humans lived predominately in climates around the equator. Clothing was minimal and sun exposure was constant. As we migrated north, we endured sunless winters, wore more clothes and adapted to living indoors – away from the sun. Today we live, sleep, eat and drive indoors away from the vitamin D rich UVB sun rays. In latitudes north of Atlanta (33°N), the UVB (vitamin D making sun rays) simply do not exist from November through March which can make these months an emotional endurance event for many. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often termed winter depression, is related to low serotonin levels caused by vitamin D deficiency.
According to the US News Report, UVB rays are only available when the UV Index is at 3 or above which doesn’t happen in the winter for most of America – so check the UV Index in your area. It is the UVB rays that convert the cholesterol (7-dehydrocholesterol) on the skin into D3 (cholecalciferol).
D3 versus D2
The D3 form of vitamin D has the highest absorptive affinity and less toxicity in the human body compared to the more popular vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). For this reason vitamin D3 will store longer in the fats cells and help us endure a long UVB deficient winter. Vitamin D2, which absorbs into the body 70% less than the vitamin D3 , was thought to be the most active source of vitamin D supplementation. It is still used to fortify foods such as milk and orange juice and is the main pharmaceutical form of vitamin D support, although many pharmacies are now switching to vitamin D3 supplementation. Vitamin D3 is primarily derived from the sun but is also found in cod liver oil and some fatty fish.
How Your Body Uses Vitamin D3
From the skin, the vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) heads to the liver where it is converted to calcidiol (25 hydroxyvitamin D). This is the form that circulates in the blood and is the most accurate form to be measured in a blood test (We recommend our Vitamin D Home Test Kit ). From here the calidiol heads to the kidneys where it is converted to calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D), the most potent steroid hormone I mentioned earlier that helps prevent at least 17 cancers and numerous health issues, in addition to protecting over 2000 genes in the body from expressing negative traits. When vitamin D levels are optimized (between 60 – 70ng/mL), numerous genetic predispositions like diabetes, breast cancer, MS, rheumatoid arthritis and many more simply don’t express. Vitamin D helps protect us from the expression of genetic diseases and ailments.
Vitamin D Prevents Risk of H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) and Influenza
Vitamin D expert Dr. John Cannell developed a theory that influenza is seasonal because of seasonal variations in sunlight which cause fluctuations in vitamin D levels(3)(4). Vitamin D activates genes to protect AMP, or antimicorbial peptides, which govern our immune system’s ability to fight viruses like influenza(7). Vitamin D is converted into it’s potent form in the respiratory cells, boosting respiratory immunity(6). It is now clear beyond doubt that low vitamin D levels are correlated to increased risk of H1N1 flu and typical influenza(7). Vitamin D also suppresses inflammatory cytokines which are responsible for the pain and misery associated with the flu(8).
While it is clear that the connection of the flu to low levels of vitamin D exists, the key – according to most researchers – is to get enough vitamin D to boost the natural immunity against not only the flu but many of the chronic diseases that haunt us.
Toxicity – Fiction or Fact?
With many articles discussing that individual sensitivity issues may exist, it’s important to be aware that vitamin D toxicity is rare. One study showed that 4,000 IUs per day for serveral years was completely safe and only after taking 40,000 IUs per day for several years is there a risk of developing toxicity symptoms(5).
That being said, as I review the research, I am not so convinced that we can be casual about the intake of high dosages of vitamin D supplements. Ideally, I think we should all do our very best to optimize our vitamin D levels in the summer when the UVB rays are available. There is absolutely no vitamin D toxicity from the sun because UVA rays break down the excess vitamin D. Vitamin D is stored in the fat so we do carry much of it into the winter months if we optimize the summer’s UVB rays. Unfortunately, most of us work indoors during midday summer hours when the UVB rays are at their peak.