Vitamin D: July 2008 Nutrient of the Month


When I began exploring supplements back in 1993,  I really didn’t understand why supplement companies even bothered to produce Vitamin D. It seemed as if the nutrient was a lackluster performer in the midst of two superstars, vitamins C and E. Plus, our skins manufacture Vitamin D from sunlight, so why bother to take a potentially toxic, fat-soluble, nutrient?

I admit I was wrong about this vitamin. In the last few years, the importance of Vitamin D against aging, cancer, heart disease, MS, and other conditions has become very well-documented. In June 2005, I posted about research that suggests sun exposure actually prevents cancer, raising a few concerns from friends who couldn’t believe I was advocating getting a little sunshine. In June 2007, I posted about exciting research that showed that Vitamin D, in the amount of 1100 IU/day, reduced overall cancer incidence by 60% (women getting Calcium and Vitamin D experienced a 77% drop!). Now, evidence shows that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to death from all causes, meaning a deficiency in the sunshine vitamin leads to an overall greater chance of dying. It is humorous that this study’s authors cautioned against taking Vitamin D supplements at this time…I wonder if researchers for a drug company would be so cautious. If you think you and your family are well-supplied, be careful. Research is showing that Vitamin D deficiency is widespread. In fact, 40% of infants and toddlers aren’t getting enough of this vitamin. Could it be that in an effort to prevent skin cancer (most forms are treatable), we are actually putting ourselves at risk for much deadlier cancers and other diseases by avoiding sunshine? After all, it seems that these days kids and adults stay inside all day for work and play, and when they actually do go outside, they load on the sunblock. Some researchers even think that the chemicals in sunblock cause skin cancer (darned if you do, darned if you don’t I guess).

I admit I supplement with Vitamin D. I also try to get a little bit of sun. I use sunblock a lot too, but I try to regulate it, so that I am getting some sun exposure. If I run outside wearing a tank top, I will usually put sunblock on areas of my body that have been well-exposed to the sun, like the face, arms, and legs, and let my shoulders, etc, tan a little. By the mid-summer, I use sunblock everywhere.

Some research suggests that the best form of Vitamin D is Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. It is dirt cheap to buy. I mostly buy my Vitamin D from Puritan’s Pride, because their prices are usually by far the lowest anywhere, and they score very high on potency tests by independent labs. Healthy America has good prices and products too. I have been excited about Vitamin D recently, and have faithfully taken it since 2004. Fortunately, I received regular sun exposure when I was younger, and received some in a multi-vitamin (400 IU of ergocalciferol, Vitamin D2, a less potent form) before taking D3 supplements.