Vitamin D may be the “oldest” pro-hormone on the planet, synthesized by a micro-organism which is estimated to have lived in the ocean 750 million years ago. Approximately 150 years ago, it was recognized that people, especially children, who worked and lived in urban areas with little light were especially susceptible to rickets, a softening of the bones leading to fractures and deformity. The predominate cause of rickets is a deficiency of vitamin D.
As early as 1849, cod liver oil was used in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB). We now know that the vitamin D in cod liver oil activates the immune system cells that can fight TB. In 1970, Adolf Windaus, a German scientist, was awarded the Nobel Prize for his synthesis of vitamin D by replicating the photo-activation process that occurs in the skin.
In the 1930s, the U.S Federal Government began recommending to parents, especially those in the Northeast, that they send their children outside to play in order to increase vitamin D levels. In addition, milk was fortified with vitamin D.
Today we know that vitamin D has many critical metabolic functions, yet much of the population is still at risk of deficiency. It is estimated that at least 30%, and as much as 80%, of the US population
is deficient in vitamin D. In the latitudes north of Atlanta, Georgia (USA), the skin does not photo-convert any vitamin D from November through March. During this season, the angle of the sun is too low to allow ultraviolet B-light to penetrate the atmosphere. Instead, it is absorbed by the ozone layer. In late
Spring, Summer, and early Fall, most vitamin D is synthesized by the skin between 10 am and 3 pm when UVB from the sun penetrates the atmosphere and reaches the earth’s surface.
Vitamin D exists in several forms, however, the primary forms of vitamin D are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (calciferol), which is more than three times as effective as D2 in raising serum concentrates of vitamin D. These are known collectively as calciferol. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin derived from the diet, or synthesized in the body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Vitamin D is also referred to as a pro-hormone, meaning that it has no hormone activity itself, but is converted to the active hormone 1,25-D through a tightly regulated synthesis mechanism. The liver and kidney help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form.
Vitamin D is produced by a phyto-reaction of exposure to ultraviolet B light from the sun (wavelength 270-300 nm, with peak synthesis occurring between 295-297 nm). These wavelengths are present in sunlight when the UV index is greater than 3. This solar elevation occurs daily within the tropics, daily during the spring and summer seasons in temperate regions, and almost never within the arctic circles. Sufficient amounts of vitamin D3 can be made in the skin after only ten to fifteen minutes of adequate
sun exposure to the face, arms, hands, or back (without sunscreen) at least two times per week. With longer exposure to UVB rays, an equilibrium is achieved in the skin, and the vitamin simply degrades as fast as it is generated.
Even dietary sources of vitamin D that are ultimately derived from organisms, from mushrooms to animals, are not able to synthesize it except through the action of sunlight at some point. For example, fish contain vitamin D only because they ultimately exist on a diet of ocean algae which synthesize vitamin D in shallow waters from the action of solar UV.
Once present in the body, vitamin D is transported to the liver where it is hydroxylated to form 25-hydroxyvitamin D[25(OH)D], the major circulating form of vitamin D and currently, the most useful indicator of your vitamin D nutritional status. This form of vitamin D has a half-life of about 3 weeks
and must be converted to the more active 1, 25- (OH) 2D for utilization the body.
In the kidney, the 25(OH)D is further catalyzed, resulting in the formation of 1, 25- (OH) 2D, the most potent form of vitamin D. Most of the physiological effects of vitamin D in the body are related to the activity of 1, 25- (OH) 2D. 1, 25- (OH) 2D is highly active metabolically and its levels are tightly controlled.
Plasma concentrations are mainly dependent on renal function, appropriate parathyroid hormone levels, and the supply of calcium and phosphate. The blood levels of this metabolite decline only after vitamin D depletion is virtually complete.
Boosts Your Immunity. The active form of vitamin D (1, 25- (OH) 2D has been shown to inhibit the development of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Maintains Calcium Balance for normal functioning of the nervous system, bone growth, and maintenance of bone density.
Modulates Insulin Secretion. Vitamin D plays a role in insulin secretion under conditions of increased insulin demand.
Decreases risk of Cardio Vascular Disease. Moderate D deficiency plus high blood pressure has been shown to nearly double the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke and heart failure. (Framingham Heart Study). Adequate vitamin D levels may be important for decreasing the risk of high blood pressure.
Aids Cell Differentiation. Vitamin D is known to regulate cell proliferation and gene expression in a variety of epithelial cells.
Probably the most important effect of vitamin D is to facilitate absorption of calcium from the small intestine and the re-sorption of calcium within the kidney, minimizing the loss of calcium in the urine. Vitamin D also enhances fluxes of calcium out of bone. Vitamin D does this in concert with parathyroid hormone. Because of its important regulatory role, a vitamin D deficiency can contribute to the bone weakening diseases of osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
Adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Health Issues Associated with Vitamin D Deficiency.
Bone disorders, Joint Disorders, Muscular weakness, Cardiovascular disorders, Psycho-neurological disorders, Endocrine disorders, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Inflammatory bowel disease, Periodontal disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis. Heart Disease, Hypertension, Arthritis, Chronic Pain, Depression, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Obesity, Premenstrual Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Crohns Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autoimmune Illness, and Cancer.
Daily Intake Associated Effects
100 IU….. has been shown to help prevents rickets, nutritional disease. The amount in one glass of milk or fortified orange juice.
200 IU ….“Adequate intake” per RDA (pre-1997).
400 IU ….“Adequate intake” per RDA (post-1997). Has been shown to help reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis in woman by 50%.
1000 IU ….has been shown to help reduce risk of cancer (breast, colorectal, ovarian, prostate) by 50%.
2000 IU….has been shown to help reduce risk Type 1 diabetes by 80% and also help to reduce upper respiratory tract infections in elderly by 90% 30,000 IU Minimum to develop toxicity over several
Many nutritionist recommend 1,000-2000 IU per day. Therapeutic Use: up to 5,000 IU per day is generally considered safe. At this level it is best to check with your physician or health care practitioner.
Children striving to achieve optimum health and wellness who regularly avoid sunlight or use sun block are urged to supplement their body with 1500 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily, depending upon age. Adults are urged to supplement their body with 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily. To obtain this amount by drinking milk, you would need to drink 50 glasses!
Vitamin D3 can come in liquid or softgel form. These can be purchased at your local health food store or if you are interested in the Vitamin D3 products I provide at my clinic check out the following links. We offer liquid Vitamin D3 for adults at http://www.drbo.com/vit-d3 and for children’s liquid at http://www.drbo.com/kids-vit-d3 and Vitamin D3 softgels at http://www.drbo.com/vitamin-d3 Experiment and fine the different forms that are right for each member of your family.
People with chronic granulomatus disorder, such as histoplasmosis, sarcoidosis or tuberculosis, should use Vitamin D at levels recommended by their physician. Blood levels above 30ng/ml can cause hypercalcemia.
Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, it is well known and established that vitamin D3 is necessary for supporting strong bones and teeth and for the proper absorption of certain minerals, especially calcium. Now, research is indicating that this nutrient is also important for many other critical body functions, including the support of a well-functioning immune system, promoting healthy energy levels and endurance, and supporting a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
Vitamin D3 is one of the most important nutrients for health and is produced in the body naturally through regular sun exposure. The skin produces approximately 10,000 IU of vitamin D when exposed to 20-30 minutes of summer sun. However, with the proliferation of sun block use, many are not being exposed to the UV rays that are necessary for natural vitamin D production in the skin.
The RDA for vitamin D is still listed as 200 IU per day. In the last few years, however this vitamin has racked up an impressive list of potential benefits As a result of these investigations, it is now estimated that up to 85% of the population may be deficient in this important vitamin and children and adults are urged to supplement their body with 1500 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily, depending upon age.
To Your Good Health,
About the Author:
Dr. Bo Wagner holds a Doctor of Natural Medicine, a Doctor of Naturopathy, a Ph.D. & Diplomate in Clinical Nutrition, is Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, a Fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine and a former Dean of Internal Wellness & Professor of Functional Medicine and currently serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Natural Medicine. Visit: www.drbo.com for more information and resources, and connect with Dr. Bo on Facebook and Twitter.
*These statements in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have a medical condition before beginning supplementation. Information contained in this bulletin is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician.