Benefits of Vitamin D and Optimal Levels

Benefits of Vitamin D and Optimal Levels for Good Health

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Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in northern Europe and North America, but many mistakenly believe they aren’t at risk because they consume vitamin-D-fortified foods (such as milk).

However, there are very few foods that actually have therapeutic levels of vitamin D naturally and even fortified foods do not contain enough vitamin D to support your health needs.

Throughout my journey to improved health Vitamin D has been a cornerstone from the outset. I live in the north east of Scotland so I take a supplement because generally we don’t get the same amount of sun as those of you living in and around the Mediterranean, Florida, California, Australia etc. where you in the main get a constant natural vitamin D source in the sun.

So, what’s the deal with Vitamin D?

Despite its name, vitamin D is not a regular vitamin. It’s actually a steroid hormone that you are designed to obtain primarily through sun exposure, not via your diet

The benefits of Vitamin D are numerous but essentially it boosts your autoimmune system. Boosting your immune system helps mitigate against all chronic disease therefore on the flip side, if you have a lack of sunshine or don’t take adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 (D3 being the appropriate vitamin D supplement to take) you are laying yourself open to disease.

Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year.

According to one of the leading vitamin D researchers, Dr. Michael Holick, one of the Nurses’ Health Studies showed that nurses who had the highest blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, averaging about 50 ng/ml, reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 50 percent.

Similarly, a Canadian study done by Dr. Knight showed that women who reported having the most sun exposure as a teenager and young adult had almost a 70 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Dr. Holick noted:

“Studies have shown that if you improve your vitamin D status, it reduces risk of colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and a whole host of other deadly cancers by 30 to 50 percent. You’re correct. Cancer is a big deal. You need to realize that vitamin D is playing a very important role in helping to maintain cell growth and to help fight cancer when a cancer cell is developing in your body.”

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Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. Dr. Holick expounds on these and many other health benefits of vitamin D. For instance, optimizing your vitamin D levels can help protect against:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to Dr. Holick, one study showed that vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of heart attack by 50 percent. What’s worse, if you have a heart attack and you’re vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack creeps up to nearly 100 percent!
  • Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Infections, including influenza. It also helps you fight infections of all kinds. A study done in Japan, for example, showed that schoolchildren taking 1,200 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day during winter reduced their risk of getting influenza A infection by about 40 percent. (I believe it’s far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimise your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu. My family and I don’t get the yearly flu jab for the risks that vaccinations bring; instead we take appropriate levels of vitamin D3.)
  • DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick’s studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months up-regulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes, from improving DNA repair to having effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and/or UV radiation, which has implications for aging for example), boosting your immune system and many other biological processes.

So as you can see having optimal levels of vitamin D is essential for good health and provides a robust shield against a whole host of nasties.

So how much do you take for optimal health?

When it comes to vitamin D, you don’t want to be in the “average” or “normal” range, you want to be in the “optimal” range. The reason for this is that as the years have gone by, researchers have progressively moved that range upward. At present, based on the evaluation of healthy populations that get plenty of natural sun exposure, the optimal range for general health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml (125 and 175 nmol/L).

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The rule of thumb is to take 1000IUs (International Units) per 25lbs of bodyweight.

Important: In addition to taking a Vitamin D3 supplement you MUST take Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 works in tandem with Vitamin D3 to help the body absorb calcium from food then direct it away from soft tissue such as your arteries to your bones. You don’t want your soft tissue calcifying. Hardening arteries can lead to heart disease.

My own results

I take a supplement; I had been taking 8000IUs of Costco’s ownbrand supplement for a couple of years now. I believe in Vitamin D3 so much I now produce and sell my own. You can find it on Amazon here.

I decided to get tested. Like my recommendations on dietary fat I wanted to test my levels in order to stand behind my recommendations and I also wanted to check that the Costco brand was actually effective!

I bought a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test kit for £28.00 from www.cityassays.org.uk.

I did the test and sent it back and after 10 days I hadn’t heard anything. I dropped them a line and they phoned me because they wanted to speak to me before emailing me my results. The reason they wanted to talk to me was because of my results. 237 nmol/L (95 ng/ml), some 25 ng/ml above optimal. I was asked some questions and advised to stop my supplementation for a period in order for my levels to reduce.

Vitamin D results

I’m not concerned with these results and I suspect I know why they are higher than optimal.

Here’s why:

  1. I did my test on 20th September 2015 and during this period we had unusually more sunshine than is typical (in Scotland!) and I hadn’t adjusted my supplement intake to compensate for naturally produced Vitamin D.
  2. I take an appropriate amount of vitamin K2 (MK7) along with my vitamin D3 therefore effectively mitigating any potential soft tissue calcification.
  3. As mentioned before researchers have progressively moved the optimal range upwards as the science on Vitamin D improves so 95ng/ml may be the optimal level in years to come.

And these result clearly demonstrate that the Costco own brand supplement works; it does boost your vitamin D levels.

As I write this in mid October 2015, we are still experiencing quite a bit of unseasonal sunshine so I have adjusted my Vitamin D3 supplement intake to 6000IUs per day. I will definitely take the test again in December/January to check whether 6000IUs is enough in winter or if I’ll have to go back to 8000IUs.

I’m already sensing I will have to adjust for the seasons.

I hope that it is evident that vitamin D is crucial to good health and if you are not lucky enough to live in a sunny climate supplementation with an appropriate amount of vitamin D3 is important. I will continue to take 6000 – 8000IUs (along with vitamin K2 (MK7)) in the full knowledge that it benefits my health.

Do you take a vitamin D3 supplement? How much do you take?, and have you had your levels checked? Please leave your experiences in the comments below.

Generally, if you have any questions, queries or comments on this article then please leave a comment below.
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