Human studies show that higher levels of vitamin D protect against cancer and other age-related ailments.1-9 This has made vitamin D an enormously popular supplement.
A "gold standard" double-blind, controlled study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women given supplemental vitamin D and calcium had a greater than 50% reduction in cancer risk over the 4-year trial compared to placebo.10
What's so compelling about vitamin D is that it is widely available and affordable to the general public.
The problem that Life Extension® identified ten years ago was that consumers weren't getting enough vitamin D. Even after our members started taking higher doses, blood test results continued coming back mostly low.
By 2009, we had accumulated more than 13,000 vitamin D blood test results (measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin D). Our analysis revealed 85.7% of these dedicated supplement users had insufficientvitamin D blood levels.
Vitamin D intake has surged over the last three years. With 39,925 new 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test results available, we conducted a new analysis.
While there was an impressive increase in the percentage of people in optimal ranges (at or above 50 ng/mL), a significant percentage of members continue to suffer vitamin D deficit.
Inadequate vitamin D status represents a major public health issue. This report describes findings from Life Extension's most recent blood test survey AND enlightens people how they can increase their 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood level without taking more vitamin D
Results of Our Latest Survey
Despite exponential increases in the potencies of vitamin D used by Life Extension members over the past three years, our health advisors kept running across blood test results showing 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 50 ng/mL.
So we conducted another analysis of all 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood tests in our computer starting January 1, 2010, and running through September 5, 2012.
The encouraging news is that the percentage of tests registering greater than 50 ng/mL increased from 14.2% in 2009 to 36.2% in 2012. That represents a 2.55-fold improvement in the percentage of people in the optimal higher vitamin D range.
The problem is that 63.8% of test results are still less than or equal to 50 ng/mL. While that's a big improvement over 2009, it means that the majority of our members still do not have enough vitamin D in their bodies to optimally protect against disease.
In fact, 20% of our tests revealed 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL, a number that even conventional doctors recognize as insufficient. When you realize that almost all people we tested were taking at least some supplemental vitamin D, you can understand the magnitude of the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency that exists in the general population.
This widespread vitamin D deficit may represent one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death in the world today.
Consumers are reading news articles proclaiming that vitamin D protects against their most feared diseases. When they look at their multi-vitamin label and see it contains 400 to 600 IU, they think they're getting enough. They are wrong!
The reality is that aging persons need to supplement with about 5,000 IU of vitamin D each day to achieve optimal blood levels. This is about ten times more than the typical American takes. How do we know this?
The Life Extension Foundation® conducted an analysis of 13,000 blood tests of dedicated supplement users in 2009. The startling results found 85.7% had insufficient vitamin D.
These were not ordinary supplement consumers. They were taking over 600 IU each day of vitamin D, but 85.7% still had 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels below the minimum protective threshold of 50 ng/mL.
Look at the labels of your vitamin supplements. If they don't add up to around 5,000 IU of vitamin D potency, you need to take higher doses—AND you need to take it at the right time of the day.
Take With Your Heaviest Meal
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, so it's important to take it with the largest meal of the day.
A Cleveland Clinic Foundation study showed that when people take vitamin D with the largest meal of the day, blood levels increase over 50% compared to taking vitamin D on an empty stomach or with a light meal.11
It is thus critical to not only take enough vitamin D, but to also take it with the meal that contains the most fat to ensure maximum absorption.
When you hear negative stories claiming that vitamins don't work, a closer examination reveals the dose is too low and instructions as to when to take the nutrient, such as with the heaviest meal of the day, are not given.
Life Extension members who take at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D, but still have 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 50 ng/mL, should make sure they consistently take their vitamin D with the meal of the day that contains the most fat. The same holds true for other fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin K, gamma tocopherol, and omega-3s.
There are over 100 published studies demonstrating vitamin D's anti-cancer effects, so you want to make certain you take it properly. Our concern is that health-conscious people seeking to reduce the amount of dangerous fats they ingest may inadvertently create a deficiency of fat-soluble nutrients.
My 25-hydroxyvitamin D Increased Sharply!
For years, I took 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. My blood test readings would come back slightly above or below the optimal number of 50 ng/mL.
For about a month I started taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 with my heavy meal. This was a bit challenging because I seldom eat heavy meals.
The results, however, were compelling. My latest blood test result came back at 84.7 ng/mL, the highest I have every achieved. This almost matches the Cleveland Clinic Foundation study showing a 56% increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels when vitamin D is taken with the heaviest meal of the day.11
I can now take less vitamin D3 and benefit from higher blood levels.
Don't Count on Sunlight or Food Sources
Vitamin D can be found in oily fish and fortified milk, but don't rely on food sources because the potency is miniscule compared to the dose you need.
Young people spending hours in the summer sun have 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels greater than 60 ng/mL.
As humans age, they lose the ability to convert sunlight to vitamin D in their bodies. They also become wiser and avoid sun exposure because they know it causes skin cancer and accelerates skin aging.
A study of aging humans who spent lots of time living in the Hawaiian sun found low blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.12
Young people who expose their bare skin to lots of sun rays will internally produce plenty of vitamin D. The skin of aging people is far less efficient. Fortunately, high-potency vitamin D capsules cost virtually nothing!
Fewer Winter Cold and Flu Infections
As daylight hours grow shorter, incidence of the common cold, flu, and respiratory infections spikes upwards. Scientists have identified reduced vitamin D levels in winter months as a prime suspect for this increase in infectious disease cases.13-16
Vitamin D from all sources lowers the incidence of respiratory infections.17,18 For example, Dutch children with the least sun exposure are twice as likely to develop a cough and three times more likely to develop a runny nose compared with children with the most sun exposure.19
When Russian athletes were given sun lamps to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the body, there were 50% fewer respiratory infections and far fewer days of absence.20
Children with the lowest vitamin D serum levels are 11 times more likely to develop respiratory infection.21 When 60,000 IU per week of vitamin D was administered (for six weeks) to children with frequent respiratory infections, the result was a complete disappearance of such infections in the following six months.22
In a controlled trial of African-American women, a low dose (800 IU a day) of vitamin D resulted in a three-fold reduction in cold and flu symptoms compared to those given placebo.23
Elderly people with low vitamin D status have been shown to be at increased risk of death from all causes, and are particularly vulnerable to wintertime infections.14,24-27
Rebuttal to Recent Vitamin D Trial
As this article was being finalized, a study was published claiming that vitamin D did not reduce upper respiratory tract infection in healthy adults. One problem with this study is that it used a monthly dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D instead of daily doses taken by supplement users. Can you imagine taking a one-month supply of any nutrient, drug, or hormone all at once and expect to see a beneficial effect? While fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D can be given monthly because the body stores them, this is not how the body is used to receiving them.
There were a number of other flaws in this study such as the study population having relatively high average blood levels of vitamin D to begin with. Despite the results not reaching statistical significance, this study nonetheless found several positive findings:
- The number of upper respiratory tract infection episodes was lower in the vitamin D group.
- The mean and median numbers of upper respiratory tract infections per person were lower in the vitamin D group.
- The upper respiratory tract infection severity per episode was lower in the vitamin D group.
- The mean number of winter upper respiratory tract infections was lower in the vitamin D group.
With winter fast approaching, it makes sense to ensure optimal blood level 25-hydroxyvitamin D status by taking the proper dose of vitamin D each day with the heaviest meal.28
What Has Been Done to Alert the Public?
The Life Extension Foundation® long ago documented that higher vitamin D levels lower disease risk.
The cover of the October 2007 issue of Life Extension Magazine® was titled "Should the President Declare a National Emergency?" In that issue, we asked the President of the United States to declare a national emergency. We wanted the President to warn about the epidemic deficiency of vitamin D this nation suffered. Our Foundation even offered to donate 50,000 one-year supply bottles of vitamin D to low-income individuals. Our requests to declare a national emergency and offer 50,000 free one-year supply bottles were ignored by our government.
The cover of the January 2010 issue of Life Extension Magazine announced the findings from our 13,000 person study showing 85.7% of supplement users had insufficient blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.29 We did this to alert the world that people need to take more vitamin D if they are to protect against the diseases of aging.
The headline of the January 2010 issue, titled "Shockingly Low Vitamin D Levels in Life Extension Members," prompted many more people to increase their intake of this extremely low-cost nutrient.
With our latest analysis of 39,925 blood test results, the fact is that 63.8% of our members have still not achieved optimal ranges of 50 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and higher.
Who Cannot Take High Doses of Vitamin D?
Not everyone can take these higher doses of vitamin D.
Those with preexisting kidney disorders may not be able to safely tolerate high-dose vitamin D because kidneys are involved in the metabolism of vitamin D.
Since vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption, those with too much calcium in their blood (hypercalcemia) should not take higher dose vitamin D until they resolve this problem. Note that enhanced calcium absorption is one mechanism by which vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis.30-31
A rare condition called sarcoidosis can result in too much vitamin D being internally produced, so these individuals should avoid vitamin D supplementation as long as their blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are elevated.
Saving Medicare From Financial Ruin
Vitamin D is so inexpensive that almost all Americans can afford optimal dose supplementation, especially if they take it with a heavy meal. The government could potentially save hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare/Medicaid outlays by simply giving vitamin D supplements to those who cannot afford it.60
This common-sense approach, however, is not being considered by bureaucrats who instead want to take your tax dollars to cover medical costs caused by widespread vitamin D insufficiency.
While the general public will continue to suffer inadequate vitamin D status, this article arms Life Extension members with hard facts to avoid this calamity of epidemic proportions.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
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