Study Shows Vitamin D Prevents Major Pregnancy Complications

sun in trees

An important 2009 study shows that Vitamin D plays a very important role in preventing pregnancy complications. This is in addition to other studies that demonstrate the importance of getting enough of the sunshine vitamin while pregnant.

This particular study, carried out by Dr. Bruce Hollis and Dr. Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina, gave 600  women of various races, 4000 IU of Vitamin D per day, and followed them throughout their pregnancies and beyond (for 2.5 years). The control group received 400 IU per day, the official recommended amount of Vitamin D.

In the group receiving 4000 IU of Vitamin D, there were half the premature births as the c0ntrol group. Fewer babies who were “small for date” were born in the 4000 IU group. The treatment group also had 25% fewer infections. The “core morbidities” of pregnancy were reduced by 30%; these include diabetes, preeclampsia, and high blood pressure. Additionally, babies getting extra Vitamin D also suffered from fewer colds and less eczema after birth. In other words, consuming 4000 IU of Vitamin D per day, 10 times the RDA, was associated with better health of mother and child. And, during the course of the study, there were no adverse effects reported from taking that much Vitamin D.

Sadly, many Americans have now lost the ability to make Vitamin D because we are in the autumn, and the sun’s rays are not strong enough to cause our skins to produce Vitamin D. This means many mothers (and babies) will be at risk of preventable pregnancy complications, unless they take Vitamin D supplements.

Review of Puritan’s Pride

Continuing my reviews of popular supplement companies, today, I want to review Puritan’s Pride in detail. This review is based on my experiences.

Overview

Puritan’s Pride is the mail-order, factory-direct, division of NBTY. Besides Puritan’s Pride, NBTY also manufactures Nature’s Bounty, Vitamin World, Rexall, Sundown, Solgar, and American Health products, some which are sold in supermarkets.

I have ordered from Puritan’s Pride since the summer of 2000, when I started getting into health again after a rather unhealthy hiatus, in which I ballooned up to 200 pounds. I had ordered from Lee Nutrition and Nutrition Headquarters in the mid-1990s, but by 2000, both companies were out-of-business, so I went looking for an alternative source of inexpensive supplements. Since 2000, I have ordered from them probably 30-40 times, so this review of Puritan’s Pride is based on quite a bit of experience. Some of the items I am familiar with include, B-Complex 50, Multi-Enzyme, and Fish Oil with Garlic.

Quality

Puritan’s Pride guarantees their products, and when tested by independent labs, all of Nature’s Bounty’s products, including those of Puritan’s Pride, perform very well. I feel very confident that Puritan’s Pride products are high quality. I haven’t had any quality problems with any of my Puritan’s Pride products.

Product Selection

Puritan’s Pride has a decent selection of products, most for great prices, although they seem to be slow to get some of the newer, cutting-edge products, and when they do, the price is often higher than their other products.  I wish they offered more multi-vitamins without iron, and with lower levels of Vitamin A (both of these concerns reflect newer research about supplementing with Vitamin A and iron). In this regard, their products seem kind of old-fashioned.  I am guessing most people with find what they need from Puritan’s Pride. I wish they had Bromelain 2000 GDU product, but I can easily get that elsewhere. Puritan’s Pride bought Doctor’s Trust a few years ago, and unfortunately, did not continue DT’s fine line of products.

Value

Puritan’s Pride always runs sales, and the key to getting the absolute best deal is to know which sale is running. I have never seen products sold for full price, so the deal you get depends on the sale they are having. They tend to have the following sales, listed below. I have placed the percentage savings off their regular price in parenthesis:

Buy 1, Get 1 free (50% off)

Buy 2, Get 3 free (60% off)

Buy 1, Get 2 free (67% off)

60% off

70% off

60-80% off

Rarely does Puritan’s Pride offer 70% off sales, or the 60-80% off sale (in which some items are 80% off, but not many). This means that the best regularly-offered deal is the “Buy 1, Get 2 free” special, which almost always runs every summer, and sometimes during other times of the year. Thus, I tend to stock-up from Puritan’s Pride products in the summer.

They also offer discounts on top of their other sales, so be sure to check and see what promotional offer is running concurrently with the advertised sales.

Puritan’s Pride does have several other sites, besides puritan.com, in which other sales sometimes run concurrently with the sale on puritan.com. These include puritansale.com, doctorstrust.com, vitamins.com, and puritancatalog.com. For awhile, puritansale offered 70%+ off many products, making it the best deal available, but unfortunately, most products on that site now are 50-60% off.

While I used to order almost all of my supplements from Puritan’s Pride, they have raised their prices on many products recently, and stopped offering some of their best sales as often as in the past. For this reason, I go to other sources for my supplements these days, since I wrote my original review.

Shipping

Usually the entire order is shipped out quickly, often arriving in a little less than a week. They always send out shipping notices via email, with tracking numbers. This makes keeping track of orders very easy.  A few times I have had to wait for back-ordered items, but very rarely. Typically, the back-ordered items are shipped out within a 10 days.

Service

Customer service is excellent and friendly. I have called them and emailed them in the past and they have always been helpful. I even emailed one of their representatives about the strength of their enzyme products (enzymes are measured by both activity and weight, and Puritan’s Pride only lists enzyme weight on their products), and she kindly contacted their scientists to find out the information I needed.

Overall

I used to consider them my primary supplement company, but now that belongs to Swanson, because Swanson currently seems to offer more variety and better prices. However, Puritan’s Pride offers high-quality products for a great price, and are well worth checking out if you think you are paying too much for your vitamins.

Crazy Vitamin D Deal From Swanson

Swanson Vitamins is currently running a buy one-get one deal on Vitamin D 2000 IU. Right now, the price is $6.39 for 500 capsules. That is right, for 500 capsules! I thought the normal deal, $6.39 for 250 capsules, was pretty good itself, but this is just amazing. 

I don’t know how long this deal will last, but I can tell you that I ordered 3 of them (for a total of 1500 capsules) yesterday. I should note that Swanson tends to be conservative on their estimates of expiration. From my observations, they seem to say their products expire 2 years from the date of manufacture. This seems too conservative to me.  Based on the expiration dates of other reputable companies, I have concluded you can effectively add 1.5 years (18 months) to Swanson’s expiration dates without worry of major potency loss. This means that taking full advantage of this sale (i.e. buying 1500 capsules) will safely last you for awhile!

PS – We have only updated this blog sporadically as of late. We hope to start posting regularly again, but alas, life happens!

More on Vitamin D and H1N1 Swine Flu

hill horizon

Vitamin D and its relationship to influenza is much-discussed recently, and is a connection I find interesting. Lately, the Vitamin D Council, led by Dr. John Cannell, has been trying to determine if there is a connection between H1N1 and Vitamin D. Just because it appears that a connection exists between seasonal flu and Vitamin D does not mean Vitamin D prevents the pandemic flu.

Recently, Cannell sent out two emails that explain the experiences that two doctors have had with Vitamin D and H1N1. Both emails, summarized here, suggest that Vitamin D helps prevent the current strain of H1N1. Of course, these case studies are not conclusive and definitive, but they are interesting early research that should be investigated further (also, since Vitamin D is cheap, and many of us are deficient, upping our Vitamin D levels is a good idea even if it doesn’t prevent pandemic influenza.

The first case involves nursing home patients receiving regular Vitamin D supplementation. 103 of the 800 staff members working at the home contracted H1N1, while only 2 of 275 residents did. Even excluding 43 staff members whose diagnosis may be suspect, the difference between the flu rates among staff and residents is statistically significant, i.e., it is very likely this was not due to chance. Less than 1% of residents became sick, while 7.5% of the staff did, which was a tenfold increase in infections among the group not definitively taking Vitamin D.

The second case comes from a doctor in Wisconsin. This doctor regularly monitors Vitamin D levels in her patients, and makes sure their levels are high. She has seen no cases of flu yet, whereas her colleague, who does not monitor Vitamin D, is seeing 1-10 cases of flu-like illness a week. Anecdotal? yes. However, it does provide food-for-thought.

I know I talk about Vitamin D a lot. There is a reason. Humans are supposed to get regular sun exposure, period. It is, and has been, the common experience of mankind since our inception. Could it be that many of our diseases are the result of living in a way that defies our very nature, i.e. are we inside too much? Vitamin D is not a miracle drug, no more than oxygen would be a miracle drug in a world in which most people denied themselves optimal levels of it. Sun exposure is a basic part of living optimally as a human, so it is no puzzle as to why modern Westerners are so depressed and sick.

Fortunately, even in times when the sun is weak (the late fall, winter, and early spring), Vitamin D is cheap and readily available. Right now, for example, Swanson Vitamins is running a sale, in which 500 capsules of 1000 IU/cap Vitamin are only $5.79. That is a 100 day supply of the amount Cannell recommends taking,  5000 IU/day (in conjunction with a Vitamin D blood test). Considering many drugs cost this much per pill, Vitamin D is cheap.

Image taken  by me

Vitamin D and H1N1 Swine Flu

I have been intrigued by research about the relationship between Vitamin D and influenza, so I often wondered how this relationship could stand the scientific scrutiny of events associated with the 1918 flu pandemic, where individuals with presumably the highest Vitamin D levels (young people) died readily, while those who likely had low levels (African-Americans) lived. Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council recently addressed this issue in the newest Council newsletter.

Cannell argues that the reason so many with low Vitamin D levels survived the worst outbreak of the 1918 flu is that they became relatively immune because many were infected earlier by a weaker, less deadly, strain. In other words, their low Vitamin D levels (hence, a lower resistance to the flu) was beneficial because they got sick from the milder, earlier, form of the 1918 flu. Interesting.

Cannell also examines the relationship of current H1N1 deaths to Vitamin D, and concludes that the majority of children who have died so far are likely Vitamin Deficient. He argues that since 2/3 of those who died had neuro-developmental conditions like epilepsy or mental retardation, they most likely spent little time in the sun, and when they did, were probably covered with sunblock. Many also probably took medications that caused a deficiency of Vitamin D. Cannell also observes that in Boston and Chicago, research shows that African-Americans have been hospitalized more for H1N1 than other races. Again, he takes this as evidence of a Vitamin D connection to the current Swine flu (because darker skinned individuals require more sun exposure to make Vitamin D, which is not a problem for those living close to the equator, but darker skinned individuals in most parts of North America are often deficient).

This is all intriguing. I can say that since I have taken higher doses of Vitamin D in the winter (anywhere from 1000-3000 IU/day), I haven’t gotten the flu. Last year I didn’t get the flu shot either. This, of course, proves nothig in a strict scientific sense, since I am but one case, and since my healthy lifestyle offers protection against the flu as well, but since I am convinced Vitamin D is beneficial in other areas of my life, I will continue to take it, hoping it also helps my body defend against a possible H1N1 innfection.

Fish Oil and Violent Behavior

According to The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman, M.D., a study published in 2002 in the British Journal of Psychiatry, prison inmates who supplemented with adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fats, experienced a 35% reduction in felony-related violent crime while in prison.

So, I guess the lesson is if you know someone who is getting ready to be violent, take them to a seafood buffet!

Vitamin D and Schizophrenia

sunny day 2

The newest newsletter of the Vitamin D Council addresses the issue of Vitamin D and Schizophrenia is depth, and it appears that since Schizophrenia is a disease that takes a long time to develop (sometimes 25 years), prenatal maternal environmental factors play an important role in the development of Schizophrenia.

Researchers at Harvard (Kinney, Huang, et. al.) released a paper looking at the role of environmental factors in Schizophrenia. They looked at three environmental factors that may trigger Schizophrenia

– Poor prenatal care

– Low Omega-3 fat consumption (i.e. not enough fatty acids from fish)

– Prenatal exposure to infections, esp. influenza

Here are the key points that Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council points out, which show that maternal Vitamin D deficiency may cause Schizophrenia later in life:

First, the highest prevalence of Schizophrenia is in Canada, near the Arctic circle, while the lowest prevalence is near the Equator. While not proving that Vitamin D deficiency causes Schizophrenia, it certainly starts the investigation!

Second, in the analysis, prenatal care did not have an effect on the prevalence of Schizophrenia around the equator; in other words, if your mother and you had bad prenatal care, you still didn’t get Schizophrenia later in life, if you lived around the equator. However, in extreme latitudes, individuals whose mothers received poor prenatal care were more likely to have Schizophrenia.

Third, at the equator, fish consumption did not affect Schizophrenia prevalence, but it did affect prevalence for the subjects studied farther away from Equator. Basically, the connection from this is that it wasn’t the Omega-3 fats from fish that made the difference, but the Vitamin D in the fish (although Omega-3 fats are certainly necessary).

Fourth, it is known that dark-skinned individuals have higher rates of Schizophrenia. However, this only holds true in dark-skinned individuals in latitudes far from the equator, and not near the equator (where even people of very dark skin make plenty of Vitamin D).

All of these factors suggest that maternal exposure to sunlight (or Vitamin D consumption) is, according to Cannell, not just a cause of Schizophrenia, but the cause.

Food for thought.

Some Good Deals Over at Swanson

Swanson Vitamins always has some good prices and sales, but right now, they are going the extra mile, offering ten percent off the entire order (enter in code TEN0809 at checkout, before August 24, 2009).

Swanson’s regular prices are some of the most competitive supplement prices on the internet, but every month or so, they put a few items on a “buy 1-get 1” sale, which makes the price even better. This month, Arginine, Horse Chestnut, MSM, Vitamin D (400 IU), and many others are on sale. Add on the ten percent, and these prices are out of this world! In fact, the Arginine price is so good, that it is  better deal (gram for gram) to buy these capsules than to buy the bulk powder elsewhere).

A Simple Spice Might Prevent Dementia

And that spice is…Turmeric! Turmeric is a part of curry recipes, and is consumed regularly in India. It also so happens that Alzheimer’s disease is rare in India (only 1% of the over-65 population has it, versus 10% in the U.S.). Some researches have suggested a Turmeric-Alzheimer’s connection, i.e., the more Turmeric one consumes, the lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. Research shows that ingredients in Turmeric may act as, or trigger the production of, antioxidants in the brain, which prevents cell damage there.

Do I believe Turmeric is the answer to Alzheimer’s? It is much too early to tell, but I have added it to my supplement regimen. I have done this because it is cheap, and widely used, so I don’t see how it could hurt, but it very well could be very helpful, if it prevents dementia.

DNE Vitamins Review

About 6 months ago, I posted reviews of popular supplement companies, but I thought I would post more expansive reviews in a series of posts over the next few months. Today, I want to review DNE Vitamins (aka D&E Vitamins) detail. This review is based on my experiences.

Overview

I have ordered from DNE 3-4 times over the last five years. Two of these orders have been fairly large, and in the last year. Some of the products I have ordered include their Time-Release Vitamin C 500 mg, and Bromelain 2000 GDU. I consider DNE one of my regular suppliers of vitamins.

Quality

According to their guarantee, they have quality controls set up to ensure potency and purity. However, I haven’t seen their products verified in independent lab tests, so I can’t speak of a more objective way to guarantee their products are what they claim. The bottles are well-sealed, and seem well-made. All the bottles have child-proof lids. I have only noticed a few minor quality issues. First, the Bromelain tabs are a little flaky. Second, in one case, the label on the bottle did not match what was listed online (or what was listed on the other bottles I got of the same product!). This was fish oil, and I only buy fish oil with a little Vitamin E present to prevent oxidation. A few of the bottles did not mention Vitamin E. I suspect they did contain the vitamin, but it wasn’t mentioned.

Product Selection

DNE has a pretty wide selection of supplements, including some sports supplements I wouldn’t ever take, but I suppose there is a market for that sort of thing (but how many caffiene supplements can one company actually carry??). They seem to get new products regularly, and carry  national brands to supplement lack of selection in their own brand, Nature’s Harbor. From my perspective, they could use higher dose Vitamin D. Right now, all they have is 400 IU strength. Considering many companies are now offering 5000 IU pills, offering only 400 IU seems out-of-date.

Value

DNE’s regular prices are competitive. However, they occasionally have sales, which provide even lower prices. They had a “buy one, get one” sale last December on their own brands, and a “50% off” sale just recently that covered every item. These sales make DNE’s prices incredibly low, and more competitive than most other companies online. For example, I recently ordered their Resveratrol product. The cost? With the recent 50% off sale, it ends up being $1.00/g. I was paying roughly $3.33/g from Puritan’s Pride. I also got free shipping! The sales are announced by regular e-mails I get from DNE. I highly suggest signing up.

Shipping

DNE has been a little weak in this area.  Shipping has sometimes been slow. I placed an order on June 17, and it didn’t ship until June 26 (they said they had just switched to “a new mail system,” because it was supposed to ship June 19). Even though the main DNE website lists various components of my order as “in stock,” they aren’t, which means almost half of my order is even further delayed. When I placed an order in December, I waited over a month for the final part of my order to get in-stock and ship. They now seem to send out emails when an order ships (and you can check online if the order is back-ordered or shipped). This is a new feature, and must be a component of their new mail system.

Service

Customer service has been excellent. I have called a few times, but I usually just chat online. The customer service representatives have been very nice, warm, and friendly. Mary and Joan do a great job!

Overall

DNE Vitamins is a great source of supplements, with very low prices, especially when they run their best sales. The quality seems good, but sometimes the number of back-ordered items can be frustrating.