The Health Benefits of Vitamin D


John Cannell, MD, Executive Director of The Vitamin D Council, reports on the Vitamin D Conference in Victoria.

The Vitamin D Conference just finished in Victoria was nothing lacking spectacular. On the bus into Victoria, I met an agent from the National Cancer Institute whose job was simple: her bosses at the NIH wanted to learn if they will fund the flood of grant requests about vitamin D. Given the grade of the papers presented, I can't imagine her answer was anything but yes.

Dr. Tony Norman and dr robert hadden columbia, the conference organizers, had to select from over 300 submissions from scientists around the world. The venerable Dr. Bouillon didn't attempt to back off his recent widely quoted warning that higher than a billion people on earth are vitamin D deficient. Both men did a great job balancing presentations on vitamin D nutrition, vitamin D basic science, and the patentable vitamin D analogs sought by drug companies. Of course, I thought additional time should have now been dedicated to vitamin D nutrition but Dr. Norman noticed that additional time was dedicated to vitamin D nutrition than ever before. Like Dr. Norman, I'm struggling to touch upon all the presentations that merited it, or this newsletter could be 50 pages long.

Dr. Barbara Gilchrest, who fired Dr. Michael Holick from one of his true professorships several years ago after Holick wrote a guide saying God knew what she was doing when she created sunlight, gave the Plenary Lecture. Wisely, Dr. Gilchrest overwhelmed the audience with graphic pictures of invasive skin cancer to guide her argument that sunlight is evil. Of course, it's harder showing pictures of invasive colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and the 15 other internal cancers caused by sunlight deprivation.

However, Dr. Gilchrest is changing her mind. George Bernard Shaw once said, "Progress is impossible without change; and people who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything." Dr. Gilchrest is changing her mind - not in regards to the evils of sunlight - about vitamin D. She is in the process of admitting that this miraculous substance has benefits beyond bone.

Couple of years ago, she dismissed any concerns about vitamin D with a "have a multivitamin if you should be concerned." Now she believes the Food and Nutrition Board needs to think about raising both the Adequate Intake recommendations (how much one should take every day) as well as the Upper Level (the amount one can take by yourself, without having to be under a doctor's care, and without anxiety about toxicity). My compliments to Dr. Gilchrest.

Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari did an excellent job, not just presenting her data that optimal vitamin D blood levels have to be at the very least 40 ng/ml, but for presenting Dr. Ed Giovannucci's data (who had to cancel for private reasons). Dr. Bischoff-Ferrari reminded us that periodontal disease in inversely linked to vitamin D blood levels. She also reminded us that there's strong scientific evidence that vitamin D improves neuromuscular performance in older people.

Dr. Bischoff-Ferrari then presented Dr. Giovannucci's data any particular one reduces your risk of all cancers about 17% for every single 10 ng/ml of vitamin D in your blood. For cancer of the digestive tract, the chance reduction is 43%. His data indicates all Americans must certanly be taking about 2,000 IU daily and some Americans need much more to minimize cancer risk. No body know where in fact the curve flattens out; that's, nobody knows just how much further cancer reduction one gets from 20, 30, or 40 ng/ml incremental increases in blood levels.

Dr. Robert Heaney presented by video hookup and made his quiet but powerful case that about 75% of American women are vitamin D deficient (levels significantly less than 35 ng/ml), that about 3,000 units a day are expected to bring 95 % of the populace out of the deficient range, and that 10,000 units a day could be the safe upper limit. (This does not mean you must take 10,000 units daily, it indicates scientists should manage to study 10,000 unit daily doses minus the bureaucratic difficulty they now encounter).

Dr. Kimball, dealing with Dr. Reinhold Vieth, presented data that children (age 10 -17) only increased their average blood level by 11 ng/ml when given 14,000 units each week for eight weeks and that such dosing was safe.

Dr. Hollis presented evidence in Victoria that levels of at the very least 40 ng/ml are expected to normalize the enzyme kinetics of vitamin D. [When I say vitamin D blood levels, I'm talking about 25(OH)D levels; Bruce is studying actual vitamin D levels (cholecalciferol) as well as 25(OH)D levels]. Dr. Hollis continues giving pregnant and lactating South Carolina women about 4,000 to 6,000 units a day in a continuous study. We predict easier pregnancies and less depression in the moms - lower prenatal and perinatal mortality, fewer birth defects, fewer infections, less diabetes, less psychiatric illness, less asthma, stronger bones, and higher IQs in the children.

Dr. Hathcock did a great job reviewing the evidence that doses below 10,000 units daily have never been shown to be toxic and that 10,000, not 2,000, units daily should be the Upper Limit. He, like so many more, urged the Food and Nutrition Board to revise their outdated recommendations. Moreover, I realize from knowledgeable people at the conference that the Food and Nutrition Board is planning to complete exactly that!

Dr. Dixon presented fascinating evidence that high vitamin D blood levels prevent sunburn! Of course, it makes sense. When vitamin D levels are low, your skin stays as white as it can certainly to make as much vitamin D as it can certainly, just in the event you ignore Dr. Gilchrest's advice. When vitamin D levels are high, your skin rapidly tans to stop excessive vitamin D skin production. A number of individuals have emailed me that observation: since their levels are high, they tan very quickly. I've noticed the exact same thing.

Dr. Marie Demay presented her basic science research that vitamin D is involved in hair follicles. I loved her talk although she's a scientist and I'm a psychiatrist so I didn't understand a lot of what she said. However, I've always believed that vitamin D will really take off once science shows it's involved in any one of three things: sex, athletic performance, or hair growth. In Victoria, we saw evidence for neuromuscular (athletic) performance and hair growth.

Dr. Cedric Garland recounted how, 26 years ago, he and his brother Frank first considered the connection between vitamin D and colon cancer. The brothers, together with colleague Ed Gorham, were the first ever to provide epidemiological evidence that vitamin D deficiency is involved in several cancers. Their seminal 1980 paper will be reprinted, a well-deserved honour. (Int J Epidemiol. 1980 Sep;9(3):227-31).

Dr. Thadhani and his group from Harvard reviewed their recent discovery that calcitriol and similar drugs increase survival in patients with renal failure. He also presented evidence that renal failure patients have profound deficiencies of both calcitriol and vitamin D and their vitamin D deficiency isn't corrected by giving calcitriol or its analogs, that will be the existing practice.

Of course, Dr. Robert Modlin stole the show when he reported on his research just published in Science that vitamin D may be, in effect, a powerful antibiotic. For initially, the UCLA group showed that after researchers add vitamin D to African American blood, their blood makes more of the natural antibiotics that humans count on the fight infection. Dr. Adrian Martineau, from the Imperial College in London, followed Modlin and showed vitamin D helped fight tuberculosis, probably from increasing these same natural antibiotics. Science has discovered more than 200 of these naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides; they're especially prevalent in top of the and lower respiratory tract; at least one inactivates the influenza virus. Let's not forget that two other groups have also recently shown the antibiotic potential of vitamin D. (Science. 2006 Mar 24;311(5768):1770-3, J Immunol. 2004 Sep 1;173(5):2909-12, FASEB J. 2005 Jul;19(9):1067-77, J Virol. 1986 Dec;60(3):1068-74).

Dr. Lu presented evidence that the vitamin D content of fish is significantly significantly less than previously thought, including mackerel. Salmon is OK but the vitamin D almost disappears once the salmon is fried.

Dr. Hardin, from Columbia University, presented evidence that blood levels above 50 ng/ml should help patients with lupus. A group from the University of Manchester presented the mechanism through which vitamin D should reduce arteriosclerosis. A group from the University of Chicago presented evidence that vitamin D should not just prevent colon cancer, but help treat it as well. Dr. Robert Scragg of the University of Auckland presented evidence that ethnic differences in vitamin D levels explain a substantial proportion of the main reason African Americans tend to be more hypertensive than whites. The group from San Diego presented evidence that vitamin D deficiency is intimately involved in breast, colon, and ovarian cancer.

A group from the University of Manitoba presented evidence that one-month-old infants tolerate 2,000 units of vitamin a day for 90 days quite well without the proof of adverse effects. A group from Wake Forest University demonstrated that higher vitamin D levels were related to better neuromuscular (athletic) performance in older Americans (should help younger Americans too). A group from the University of Amsterdam revealed that the increased risk of falling from vitamin D deficiency is significantly worse in people with a typical genetic variation of the vitamin D receptor. Dr. Chen presented evidence that the usual vitamin D should prevent prostate cancer.

Dr. Barsony, of Georgetown University, presented evidence that low blood sodium is just a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency and that such deficiencies may not manage to be corrected before low blood sodium is corrected. Dr. Barsony really thought outside the box to find out this potentially very important clinical finding. Dr. Godar presented evidence that young Americans, not just older Americans, are not getting much vitamin D from sunlight. Dr. Taylor showed evidence that the significant quantity of small children have a previously undetected kind of vitamin D within their blood. (Sunlight triggers the creation of a number of different versions of vitamin D in your skin, that's why it's risky to steer clear of the sun and only rely on oral vitamin D.) Dr. Patel and an organization from the University of Manchester announced evidence that vitamin D deficiency may be involved in inflammatory polyarthritis.

Dr. Grant was involved in six presentations; the most interesting was his replication of a 1937 discovering that squamous cell skin cancer reduces one's risk for a number of internal cancers. That's why I was previously so happy when my dermatologist found a squamous cell cancer on my skin. However, since I maintain my level at about 60 ng/ml, he hasn't had the opportunity to find any new ones.

Dr. Bulmer and his group from the Royal Victoria Infirmatory produced evidence that vitamin D may may play a role in allowing fertilized ova to implant in the uterus and thus enhance fertility. Dr. Reichrath presented evidence that transplant recipients are in a high risk for vitamin D deficiency and that 50,000 units monthly could be the most practical way of ensuring sufficiency. Dr. Selby from the University of Manchester found the exact same problem in patients with chronic pancreatitis. A group from the University of Tennessee found the exact same problem in African Americans with heart failure. A group from Norway confirmed that cancer patients do better if they're diagnosed when vitamin D levels would be the highest.

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The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

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Published on March 18, 2023

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