Archive for Friday, June 19, 2009

Vitamin D deficiency afflicts high percentage of population

June 19, 2009


Vitamin D direction

Kim Templeton, an orthopedic surgeon at Kansas University Hospital, and other researchers have developed the following tips about vitamin D:

• Educate yourself. Learn if you are at-risk for a vitamin D deficiency. Those most at-risk include breast-fed infants, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, individuals with dark skin, people with fat malabsorption, and obese individuals.

• Talk to a physician. At your annual checkup, ask about your risk for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D needs may vary by age, race, and other factors, and certain people have more difficulty absorbing the nutrient.

• Spend 30 to 45 minutes in the sun each week. Vitamin D is mostly produced in the skin after UV exposure from the sun. However, try to avoid sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• Eat a well-balanced diet. Vitamin D can be derived from milk, fatty fish, egg yolks and yogurt. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with milk allergy, lactose intolerance, and a strict vegetarian diet.

• Take a supplement with caution. If you don’t already, start taking a daily multivitamin and make sure it contains vitamin D. If you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, your doctor may recommend that you take a larger daily supplement of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is drawing a lot of attention these days.

“It turns out to be super important, and more and more is being learned about it all of the time,” said Dr. Daniel Aires, director of the division of dermatology at Kansas University Medical Center. “I think of it as doing at least three things and probably a whole lot more.”

Those three things:

• Keeping bones strong.

• Helping prevent autoimmune diseases.

• Preventing cancer.

“The new thinking is, it’s one thing to be deficient, but it’s another thing to have enough,” he said. “At this point, nobody really has great data for how much is enough.”

But many doctors, including Aires, believe a good portion of the population is vitamin D deficient.

“One doctor here has been testing a lot of people for vitamin D. He finds more than half of the people he tests have low levels,” Aires said.

A simple blood test can determine an individual’s level of vitamin D.

Aires said the recommended daily intake is 400 international units a day, which is the amount someone would get by spending less than a minute outside. He expects the recommendation to increase with time.

“If you go outside on a sunny day with your shirt off for about a half hour, you are going to get something like 10,000 units of vitamin D,” he said. “The recommendations will probably end up somewhere in the neighborhood of what you might get if you spent an hour outside every day. That’s my guess, but at this point that really is a guess.”

There are two ways to get vitamin D.

One is by mouth, taking supplements and consuming vitamin D-rich foods such as milk and salmon. One 3.5-ounce glass of whole milk contains about 40 units and a 3.5-ounce piece of cooked salmon contains about 360 units. Aires suggests taking a supplement with some fat, so the body absorbs more of the vitamin. He said a glass of skim milk and cereal won’t necessary cut it.

“I always tell my patients to be sure and take it with olive oil or a fried egg or something else with some fat in it.”

The other way to get vitamin D is through the skin, by exposing it to the sun. Sunscreen does make a difference. An SPF as low as eight can reduce vitamin D absorption by 95 percent.

“My advice is to be sun smart and to take vitamin D by mouth,” Aires said. “I don’t recommend people going outdoors just for the purpose of getting vitamin D.”

That’s because skin cancer is a concern, Aires said. About 15,000 Americans die each year from it.

“The thing is those deaths are, for the most part, preventable by avoiding sunburns and just being sun smart.”

He suggests taking a vitamin D supplement that has D3 or colecalciferol on the label. He recommends 1,000 units a day to almost all of his patients.

“I don’t generally recommend a lot of vitamin supplements,” he said. “But, to my knowledge, there has been nothing negative about taking vitamin D for people with healthy kidneys.”

In fact, he takes 4,000 units.

“It’s absolutely being connected to more things,” he said of vitamin D deficiency. Those things include: increased death rate, heart trouble and weight issues.

Eudora resident Rose Polok, 38, who had been suffering from tiredness and an inability to lose weight, was diagnosed as being vitamin D deficient on June 2.

“I was surprised,” she said. “It’s not something you really think of.”

She had a blood calcidiol level of 17 nanograms per milliliter, which is considered mildly deficient. A level of less than 14 is considered severely deficient. An optimal level is between 35 and 55. Polok’s doctor recommended that she take 6,000 units a day for two months and then get retested. She paid about $12 for an over-the-counter supply of 120 pills.

Polok already has noticed a difference.

“When I work out, I have noticed that I’ve been able to do more and not be tired after working out,” she said. “I also have noticed that I seem to feel better throughout the day.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.