vitamin D

  1. New research finds omega 3s and vitamin D are vital for lupus patients

    Dear Reader,

    The Lupus Foundation of America calls the disease a "cruel mystery."

    But what's really mysterious here is how in the world two natural, safe, and effective treatments for this autoimmune disease keep being left in the dust... while risky meds continue to sell like hotcakes.

    One thing is very clear: If you or someone you love is suffering from lupus, the benefits of making sure your levels of these two nutrients are up to par is no mystery at all.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Reinventing the wheel
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    Two new studies have just confirmed what we've known all along -- that vitamin D and omega-3s can significantly help lupus patients.

    One, from the University of Michigan, found that those with lupus who included plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets slept better and scored lower on what's called a measure of lupus "disease activity."

    The key seems to be concurrently upping those omega-3s while easing up on the omega-6 variety of fatty acids, but I'll get to more on that in a minute.

    In the second study, doctors at Johns Hopkins looked at the data on close to 1,400 lupus patients and found that low levels of vitamin D could actually "predict" kidney failure. Not having enough D circulating in your blood, they concluded, can up the risk of severe kidney disease by nearly 70 percent in those with lupus!

    Since direct sun exposure -- the best source of vitamin D -- aggravates lupus symptoms, low levels are practically a given among those with the disease. Close to 30 percent of the lupus patients in the Johns Hopkins study were found to be deficient in it.

    Dr. Michelle Petri, the study author who just so happens to be the director of the Hopkins Lupus Center, was very clear in her recommendations: "Supplementary vitamin D is very safe" and can help safeguard your kidneys, preventing one of "the most dreaded complications" of the disease.

    Getting sufficient levels of the sunshine vitamin, she added, can also help prevent blood clots, heart disease, and excessive protein in the urine.

    And, as I said, this is far from the first time vitamin D and omega-3s have been found to be breakthrough treatments for lupus patients. In fact, eAlert readers have been hearing about their benefits for a decade or more!

    Just last year, for example, we told you about a study out of Michigan State University that found DHA, a type of omega-3, was able to stop lupus in its tracks. That research was done in mice that were specially bred to be predisposed to the disease.

    One of the researchers said that he had never seen such a "dramatic protective response."

    So, why does it seem as if we're always having to reinvent the wheel where these kinds of valuable treatments are concerned?

    Much of that has to do with responses like this from the Lupus Foundation of America: Dr. Stacy Ardoin, a member of the foundation's medical and scientific advisory council, said that these studies, while "encouraging," really don't prove much of anything.

    She went on to say that she receives plenty of questions about what lupus patients should eat, but "It's an area where we have little evidence."

    Seriously? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!

    Could remarks such as those have anything to do with the fact that GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the horribly risky drug for lupus called Benlysta, is one of the foundation's top sponsors?

    Whatever the reason, it's clear as day that these two nutrients are vital for those with lupus. They're also easy to add to your routine.

    Vitamin D supplements, in fact, are about the least expensive ones out there. You can also up your levels by having more D-rich food such as eggs, wild salmon, mushrooms, and almond milk.

    Wild salmon is a great source of omega-3s as well, along with sardines, walnuts, flax and chia seeds. This essential fatty acid is also widely available in supplement form (just be sure the one you buy contains high amounts of DHA and EPA).

    As for omega-6 fatty acids, the ones those Michigan researchers said you should be consuming less of, they can be best avoided by eliminating "unhealthy" oils (such as corn, sunflower, and safflower) from your diet and replacing them with coconut or extra virgin olive oil.

    To Living Better With Lupus,

    Melissa Young

  2. Don't forget your supplements this holiday season

    My "prescription" for a Merry Christmas

    With just five days until Christmas...and the shopping season in full swing...I think it's high time I offer up a bit of my best holiday advice. But don't worry, my "prescription" is a simple one: slow down, take a deep breath, and for goodness sake lighten up!

    Yup, that's it.

    It's so easy to get caught up in the chaos that sometimes we need to be reminded to just relax and enjoy this wonderful time of year. And let's face it, running at full steam for weeks on end, worrying about finding "the perfect gift," and stressing about family and work obligations can set you up for a crash right in the middle of cold and flu season.

    So take some time out to enjoy the lights. Watch a sappy Christmas movie. Or just take a nap. And if anyone questions you just say, "Hey, it's doctor's orders!"

    And while you're at it don't forget to take your vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and garlic to help shore up your immune system before you go visiting family and friends. (You'll find lot's more immune-building advice in the Guide to Good Health archives here.)
    Oh, and one last thing. Don't fret about having that Christmas cookie or an extra glass of holiday cheer. It's Christmas after all, and an occasional holiday indulgence never hurt anyone.

    I wish you a happy, healthy, and very merry Christmas!

  3. Is vitamin D deficiency making your child sick?

    Sick kid? Check his D levels

    Evidence from two new studies has our old friend vitamin D back in the spotlight. But this time instead of adult vitamin-D deficiency it's the kid variety that's taking center stage.

    In one Harvard University study researchers found that 40 percent of the sick kids that they tested in pediatric intensive care were vitamin D deficient. And the kids who were deficient were more likely to stay in the hospital longer than other kids.

    And Canadian researchers had similar results when they tested sick kids in a pediatric intensive care unit in Ottawa.

    Both groups of researchers were quick to say that they hesitated to blame D deficiency for causing the kids to be sick. But what we, of course, do know is that vitamin D is absolutely crucial for your immune system to work properly. Without enough D the killer cells in your immune system, known as T-cells, can't react and fight off serious illnesses.

    If you have a healthy child or grandchild in your life, after thanking your lucky stars make sure he's getting plenty of D-containing meals with eggs, oily fish, and D fortified foods and encourage him to spend some time out playing in the sunshine daily. You also might want to talk with his doctor about starting him on a vitamin D supplement.

    And if you have a sick kid in your life talk with his doctor about the possibility of him taking large doses of D as early in the illness as possible.

  4. Watch out for vitamin D carpetbaggers

    Well, what do ya know? Vitamin D has finally hit the big time.

    In fact, sometime in the near future, you might be able to say taking it prevents cancer. And you won't go to prison for it. And you won't have to pay a whopping fine... even you're a merchant selling a product that contains vitamin D!

    As you remember...

    A few weeks back, I told you that the FDA only allows drug makers to talk about diseases. And there are very few exceptions in the vitamin world. Selenium is one of them. Merchants can make "qualified claims" about selenium and cancer prevention. And now, vitamin D seems on the brink of achieving the same superstar status!

    Late last month, the Alliance for Natural Health-USA announced plans to petition the FDA on behalf of vitamin D. They are submitting a "qualified health claim" to the FDA about cancer prevention with vitamin D based on literally 6,000 published studies.

    If the FDA approves it, you may see something like this on your milk jug: Contains vitamin D, proven to help in the prevention of breast cancer. Of course, the jug will probably be pink.

    (Sigh.)

    So, yes, I'm certainly wary of the vitamin D carpetbaggers jumping on the bandwagon to boost sales. But I guess I'll live with it. Better to let vitamin D out of the closet than keep its potential under wraps.

  5. Follow these new sunscreen rules

    Summer is here and you probably spend more time outdoors. That‘s good news. We can all use the extra vitamin D, according to new research out of Stanford.

    In fact, a new study found that women who took vitamin D/calcium supplements cut their risk of developing melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. In fact, they cut their odds by 50 percent! And these were women considered "high-risk" for developing melanoma.

    Your body, of course, naturally converts sunshine into vitamin D. So it stands to reason that a little unadulterated sunshine is good for you. It may even protect you against skin cancer. Sounds paradoxical, I know. But experts believe vitamin D blocks cells in your body from mutating, including your skin cells.

    So this summer, aim to spend 20 to 30 minutes outside each day without sunscreen. Morning light is generally gentler. This will give you about 10,000 IU of vitamin D3. You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs. Vitamin D is naturally found in egg yolks. Also, try to eat more salmon, tuna, and sardines.

    Also, if you‘re going to the beach, you will need sunscreen at some point. You‘ll want to look up the safest sunscreens that don‘t contain hormone disruptors. Visit the Environmental Working Group‘s website at www.ewg.org for a list of the safest brands on the market.

    So if you haven‘t yet joined the vitamin D bandwagon, now‘s the time to hop on. Go for up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D most readily absorbed by the body). You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks) and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines.

  6. Lack of vitamin D increases depression risk by 85 percent

    Low vitamin D increases depression risk by 85 percent

    If there‘s such a thing as an all-natural happy pill, vitamin D looks to be it. In fact, scientists recently analyzed vitamin D levels for 8,000 young men and women between the ages 15 and 39. They found that volunteers deficient in vitamin D were 85 percent more likely to have depression compared to volunteers with adequate levels. And even though this study looked at young folks, I‘m sure the lack of vitamin D has an even greater affect on older folks, like me. Truthfully, this vitamin D study should come as no surprise. Vitamin D has a profound effect on the brain. In fact, it helps to boost your body‘s production of the "feel good" neurotransmitter serotonin. Just consider why so many northerners suffer from so-called "seasonal affective disorder" (or SAD). Could it be any plainer? Most of them just don‘t get enough sunshine (which your body converts into vitamin D) between October and March. As a result, their mood suffers. So if you‘re feeling a little down over the winter months or you know you have SAD, have your vitamin D levels checked. Optimally, your vitamin D blood levels should be at least 75 nanomoles per liter. In addition, everyone (especially those living in northern parts of the country) should take up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day. It‘s the form of vitamin D most easily absorbed by the body.
  7. Vitamin D and cancer: What you need to know

    Over the years, I've talked a lot about vitamin D and cancer. In fact, recent estimates suggest that vitamin D protects against 22 different types of malignancies including breast, colon and prostate cancer. Well, it may be time to add another type of cancer to the list. Two months ago, researchers found that vitamin D also protects you against bladder cancer. For the vitamin D and cancer study, published in the journal Cancer Research, scientists recruited 500 men to take part in the study. Each of them were cancer-free at the beginning of the study. Researchers took blood samples of the men between 1985 and 1988 to check for levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is what vitamin D converts into in the body. Then, they compared men diagnosed with bladder cancer against men who did not have the disease. They found that men with less than 25 nanomoles per liter of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were 73 percent more likely to develop bladder cancer compared to men with at least 50 nanomoles per liter. And though the study was conducted with male smokers, I'm certain they will get the same results with nonsmokers and women. You see, scientists believe vitamin D helps to flush toxins out of your bladder. It also promotes the healthy turnover of cells in the bladder. So even if you're a woman or a nonsmoker, continue taking your vitamin D every day. Go for up to 5,000 IU per day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country.
  8. Vitamin D is critical to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients

    Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a brutal disease. And the standard treatment usually calls for waiting until the symptoms to get bad enough so you can start chemotherapy. But according to a major new study, you don't have to play this helpless waiting game. You can help control the progression of the disease with the help of vitamin D.

    For the study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic and University of Iowa recruited 390 patients recently diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. First off, they checked the patients' blood levels for plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

    They found that roughly 30 percent of the patients were deficient in vitamin D (levels lower than 25 nanograms per milliliter). Then the researchers checked back in on all the patients three years later.

    Unfortunately, the disease progressed much faster in those deficient in vitamin D.

    In fact, patients low in the vitamin had a 66 percent greater risk of disease progression during that time compared to their counterparts. Plus, they had more than double the risk of dying.

    According to Dr. Shanafelt, lead researcher for the study, "This tells us that vitamin D insufficiency may be the first potentially modifiable risk factor associated with prognosis in newly diagnosed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This finding may be particularly relevant for this kind of leukemia because although we often identify it at an early stage, the standard approach is to wait until symptoms develop before treating patients with chemotherapy. This watch and wait approach is difficult for patients because they feel there is nothing they can do to help themselves."

    So if you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, show your oncologist this study. It was published on November 3, 2010 in the journal Blood. Once he gives you the okay, start taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. It's the form of vitamin D best absorbed in the body. Plus, though the study was limited to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, I strongly anyone struck with cancer to take extra vitamin D.

  9. Vitamin D use skyrockets in U.S.

    This week, I read that 27 percent of Americans now take vitamin D. That‘s up from 16 percent just last year. And while I‘d like to hear that every American takes 5,000 IU of vitamin D, I‘m glad to hear that at least we‘re making progress. Vitamin D is critically important to your health. In fact, recent research suggests that vitamin D affects more than 200 of your genes. Over the years I‘ve written about it plenty as it relates to:
    • Stronger muscles
    • Decreased Parkinson‘s disease risk
    • Stronger immune health
    • Younger bones
    • Lowered risk of type-2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, as well as colon and breast cancer
    • Fewer urinary tract infections
    • Improved digestion
    • Happier moods
    So if you haven‘t yet joined the vitamin D bandwagon, now‘s the time to hop on. Go for up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D most readily absorbed by the body). You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks) and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. Lastly, make sure to have your vitamin D levels checked with your annual blood work. Ideally, you want your levels between 50-70 ng/mL.
  10. Surviving cold and flu season 101

    This week I‘ve got some more advice about arming yourself against winter‘s worst viruses and bacteria. In addition to vitamin D and probiotics, there are quite a few things you can do to protect yourself this winter. First off, make vitamin C part of your daily regimen. It‘s a powerful detoxifier that also stimulates our immune system. But here‘s what most people don‘t realize about vitamin C: It doesn‘t work a lick once you‘ve got a cold. So taking a few extra tabs once you‘ve got the sniffles isn‘t going to help you much. On the other hand, it works magnificently for the prevention of colds. So take it daily while you‘re healthy and you‘ll stay that way. Also, it‘s important to remember that vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time. So you‘ve got to take it a few times throughout the day. For basic cold prevention, take 1,000 mg two to three times a day. If you‘re under any type of stress -- physical or emotional -- you may want to go for more. Secondly, like vitamin C -- take the herb Echinacea daily to prevent catching a cold in the first place. It doesn‘t work well once you‘ve caught a cold. In fact, a few years back, scientists found that taking Echinacea and vitamin C together can reduce your risk of catching a cold by a whopping 86 percent! Thirdly, at the height of cold and flu season, for some extra immune system support add some EpiCor, Beta 1,3 Glucan, and Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) to the mix. EpiCor is 100 percent natural and helps to balance your immune system. Beta 1,3 Glucan is a natural polysaccharide that activates your white blood cells. And last but not least, ALA is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body to absorb nutrients from the food you eat.

    Home remedies that work

    I‘m also a big believer in saltwater gargles. Most folks know that it can help relieve a sore throat. But did you know that rinsing with saltwater could even block you from catching a cold in the first place? A few years back, that‘s exactly what scientists discovered! They recruited 400 healthy volunteers to see if saltwater rinses could actually prevent colds. Half of the volunteers rinsed with salt water every day for 60 days during cold and flu season. The other half did nothing. Scientists found that the volunteers who gargled regularly caught 40 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections compared to the non-garglers. Plus, when they did get sick, they got over it faster. Saltwater is effective against the common cold because it kills the bacteria in your throat, tonsils, and adenoids. I usually recommend dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in a glass full of warm water. Gargle for a minute or so before spitting it out. This will also help kill off bacteria that cause bad breath, so I gargle in the morning, after brushing and flossing my teeth.

    What should you take once you get a cold?

    Should you catch a cold this winter, there are a few things to do to get over it quicker. First off, here‘s the obvious: Lots of fluids and rest. Secondly, take a 13 mg zinc lozenge five or six times a day during your cold. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in your immune health. And while most research is mixed as to whether or not it can prevent a cold, one fact about zinc is quite clear. It can help you get over your cold faster! In 2008 scientists found that men and women who took a zinc lozenge every few hours within the first 24 hours of developing a cold got over the bug faster. In fact, their colds only last half as long as the control group who took a placebo. Plus, their coughs lasted for two days instead of five. And their noses only ran for three days, instead of four and a half. Just be careful about which kind of lozenge you buy. Find one that contains zinc acetate. Your body will absorb this kind the best. Also, avoid lozenges that contain citric acid or other flavorings. These added flavors block zinc‘s natural ability to boost your immune system and may actually make things worse. Also, long-term use of zinc is not safe. This can lead to a copper deficiency. So just make sure to stop the lozenges after you kick your cold.
  11. These immune system boosters can protect you against winter’s worst germs

    Think your digestion has nothing to do with how well you fight off a cold? Well, think again. A new study finds that a natural digestive aid may be your ticket to a healthier winter with fewer colds. In the Guide to Good Health, I‘ve talked often about the "good bacteria" (also known as intestinal flora) in your gut. These tiny microorganisms help you digest food. They also defend against toxins and germs. In fact, your digestive tract is your first line of defense against disease and the common cold. Normally, billions of these good bacteria line your digestive tract. But a poor diet, antibiotics, and other drugs can wipe out these healthy bugs. Also, as you get older, your body‘s supply of good bacteria falls off. The good news is, you can replenish your body‘s supply of these natural immune boosters with probiotic supplements. These supplements contain billions of units of good bacteria. (As a comparison, yogurt only contains a few million active bacteria by the time you eat it. And that‘s hardly enough protection against today‘s resilient germs.)

    Boost your immunity this winter with probiotics

    Scientists recently put probiotics to the test against the common cold. They recruited 272 healthy volunteers to take part in this double-blind placebo- controlled study (the gold standard in scientific circles). They gave half of the volunteers a daily probiotic that contained billions of units of healthy bacteria. The other volunteers received a placebo. After 12 weeks, the volunteers who took probiotics had a clear edge. In fact:
    • The probiotic group got 12 percent fewer colds.
    • The probiotic group also got over their colds 30 percent FASTER than the placebo group.
    • Lastly, the probiotic group‘s symptoms were LESS SEVERE than the placebo group.
    Not bad for a digestive aid that you‘re hopefully already taking! Plus, while we‘re talking about cold and flu season, don‘t forget about vitamin D.

    Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu...

    In addition to probiotics, Vitamin D also helps to boost your natural defense. It kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Plus, a recent study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo. During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even greater had the participants taken vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days. So even though it‘s not quite flu and cold season, now‘s the time to kick your immune system into high gear. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country. In addition, load up on the probiotics. Look for a capsule that contains billions of units from many different strains of bacteria.
  12. "Prep" your body NOW for flu season with a tiny vitamin that packs a wallop

    I know that getting the flu is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now. But believe it or not, now's the time to "prep" your body against next winter's flu virus. A new study published in the Clinical Journal of Nutrition shows that one tiny vitamin may cut your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 74 percent. But it also takes time to build up in your system...so you need to start now, so you ARE ready in time for flu season to hit! Now, I know you may wonder, "Can't I just get a flu shot in November, like always?" And sure, you could do that and hope for the best. But it's not the smartest decision, especially if you're over 65. Here's why... Flu shot fails for men and women over 65... If you're over 65, I bet that your primary doctor urges you to get a flu shot every fall. And his intentions are in the right place; the flu can be very harsh on older men and women. In fact, adults over 65 account for about ¾ of the flu deaths every year. But your well-intentioned doc may be leading you astray. According to a new report by the Cochrane Collaboration, there's very little solid proof that flu vaccines effectively protect older adults. In fact, Cochrane scientists found that 74 out of 75 vaccine studies were biased and of poor caliber. Plus, according to Dr. Tom Jefferson (lead researcher and vaccine expert), the data that gets reported in the press is just plain wrong. In a New York Times interview, Dr. Jefferson stated, "What you see is that marketing rules the response to influenza, and scientific evidence comes fourth or fifth." Jefferson also stated that "until we have all available evidence, it is hard to reach any clear conclusions about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines in older people." But this really isn't new news. About five years ago, another analysis of 64 different studies uncovered basically the same thing. That time scientists found that flu shots--at best--reduced an elderly person's risk of hospitalization by only 27 percent. Bottom line here folks is that the flu shots--although they're heavily marketed to older adults--probably don't protect you very much. But here's the good news: Even if a vaccine can't protect you from the flu, something else can. Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu... Vitamin D is one of your best defenses against the flu. And it's always been a favorite among nutritionists like me. Vitamin D is the power vitamin that kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders, especially bacteria and viruses. Recently, a study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo. During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. Interestingly, the researchers also found that the D3 patients with asthma experienced fewer asthma attacks compared with patients in the placebo group. And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even better had the participants received vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days. So really--even though spring is here--now's the time to kick your immune system into high gear and "prep" for flu season. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day. And if the temperatures are warming up in your neck of the woods, spend some time outside without sunscreen. Just 30 minutes of sunshine will give you 20,000 IU of vitamin D. This limited amount of sun exposure is not only safe, but it's also healthy and will give you some added ammunition against next year's flu!
  13. One small vitamin slashes your risk of the "big three" killers

    It's probably the smallest pill in your kitchen cabinet. But it's also one of the most important. In fact, for the first time ever, scientists have conducted a "meta-analysis" of this vitamin. This means that scientists gathered data from dozens of different studies. Then, they combined the results to give us "the big picture." And the results were spectacular. They revealed that in fact, this one tiny vitamin might be the best protection you've got against the "big three" killers: Stroke, Heart Attack, and Diabetes. Gold mine found hidden among 28 different studies Scientists analyzed the blood work from 28 different studies involving 100,000 men and women and they found that one vitamin made all the difference. As it turns out men and women with plenty of vitamin D in their blood remained much healthier than their counterparts did. In fact, this group of men and women reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 33 percent. And don't forget that CVD is an umbrella term. So this actually means that they cut their risk of arthrosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke by 33 percent. And that's not all... These men and women also reduced their risk of developing type-2 diabetes by a whopping 55 percent! But results didn't stop there! Scientists further discovered that this same group never developed a collection of symptoms known as "metabolic syndrome" - also known as syndrome X. How does all of this fit together? Metabolic syndrome often precedes the "big three" killers. It refers to a group of symptoms that increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and type-2 diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following symptoms:
    • High blood pressure
    • High blood sugar levels (when fasting)
    • Large waist circumference
    • Low HDL cholesterol
    • High triglycerides
    Almost 75 million men and women in the U.S. have these symptoms. And, therefore, they're at serious risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. But I'll tell you who doesn't have metabolic syndrome: the men and women from the study with an abundance of vitamin D in their blood. They reduced their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 51 percent. What's your number? Clearly, vitamin D is essential to preventing disease. And hopefully, you've had your vitamin D levels recently checked. If not, ask your doc for the blood test. Ideally, you want your levels between 50-70 ng/mL. If your levels are lower than that, you should consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Anyone living in the northern part of the U.S. should also consider taking one, due to the lack of sunshine. I usually recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of D most easily absorbed in the body) daily, especially in the winter months. You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks), liver, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. For example, just one serving of wild sockeye salmon contains almost 1,000 IU of vitamin D. Don't be a guinea pig In closing, I'd like to give you a warning. There's a major government-sponsored study on vitamin D in the works. It's called the Vital Study. Scientists are currently recruiting 20,000 men and women to take part. According to a recent New York Times article, scientists in this study seek to discover "whether high doses of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids from fish-oil supplements will lower risk for heart disease and cancer." Sounds great at first blush. But here's the problem: Half of the participants will take either a D3 supplement or a fish oil supplement for five years. Not both. Or, you can be one of the really unlucky folks assigned to the placebo group. If that's the case, you'll be taking a sugar pill for the next five years! The problem is, to maintain optimum health; you need both of these essential nutrients. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for scientific research, especially on vitamins. And it will be very interesting to see the outcomes of the Vital Study. But I just wouldn't recommend you sacrifice your own good health to prove a point. Let someone else be the guinea pig.
  14. My how things change!

    Forty years ago, experts warned that vitamin D was toxic in amounts as low as 1,000 IUs daily. Now we know now better. In fact, in last week's Guide to Good Health, we learned that vitamin D may protect women against bacterial infections. And this week—it seems—we need more vitamin D to stay mentally sharp. That's according to a new study that that caught my attention.

    Scientists looked at vitamin D levels in about 3,000 European men between the ages 40 and 79. They wanted to examine the connection between the amount of vitamin D found in the blood and mental function in adults.

    According to NutraIngredients.com, researchers found that "higher blood levels of vitamin D were associated with better performance in tests of attention and speed of information processing." In fact, researchers found the strongest positive connection between vitamin D and mental performance in men over 60.

    So for anyone out there who's over 50 and just not feeling mentally sharp, ask yourself this: Are you spending enough time in the sun each day? Most likely, you're not. Not surprisingly, as we age, many of us tend to spend less time outside.

    But this is a shame…because just spending 30 minutes a day in the sun (without sunscreen) will give you 10,000 IUs of vitamin D. (Yes, you read that right, 10,000 IUs of vitamin D!) Make an early-morning walk around the block part of your daily routine!

    If you can't quite pull that off, take 2000 IUs of a vitamin D supplement daily. In winter months, go for 4000 IUs daily.

  15. Low vitamin D linked to female infections

    Researchers from the Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health have discovered a strong link between low vitamin D and bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal infection among women. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by changes to the balance of microflora in a woman’s vagina. Typically, it‘s treated with a course of antibiotics. (I‘d much rather see a woman prevent this and other common infections with a daily probiotic, but that‘s another story for another day.) In any case, the Pittsburgh study looked at 469 women during the first trimester of pregnancy. They found that 41 percent of the women had BV. (Holy cow, that‘s high! They definitely should be taking a daily probiotic.) The Pittsburgh team also discovered that women with low vitamin D in their blood (below 20 nmol/L) had a 34 percent greater risk of having BV compared to women with normal vitamin D (more than 80 nmol/L). Put another way, almost 60 percent of the women with low vitamin D also had BV. Just another reason, ladies, to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D daily. Remember, spending just 30 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen will give you 10,000 IUs of vitamin D. For anyone not getting regular sun exposure, I usually recommend taking 2000 IUs of vitamin D daily. In winter months, I‘d go for 4000 IUs daily.
  16. Defeating Diabetes with more D

    The good news about vitamin D just keeps coming, folks. It seems that every week a new study surfaces about the benefits of adding this building block to your regimen. Last week, I came across an article in Nutra-Ingredients USA about how increased vitamin D and calcium may protect you from type II diabetes. In fact, researchers have found that people with the highest intake of vitamin D, calcium or dairy intake have a 64 percent lower prevalence of the disease. 64% decreased prevalence of type II diabetes With this type of razor sharp data (some of it from Harvard researchers, no less), every family doc in the nation should be handing out vitamin D and calcium by the bucketful! If only they’d stop pushing their pens across the script pad and practice some preventative medicine for a change!
  17. Vitamin D = girl power!

    Following up on last week’s Guide to Good Health, I thought I’d mention another new study out this month highlighting the importance of good ole vitamin D, especially for young girls. A research team from England measured vitamin D levels in 99 girls between the ages 12 and 14. Turns out that almost 75 percent of the young girls were deficient in vitamin D. The remaining 25 percent had adequate levels. The researchers then put all the girls through a series of tests to measure their muscle strength and stamina. Not surprisingly, the girls with low vitamin D performed badly on the tests. On the other hand, the girls getting enough vitamin D did great. They demonstrated significantly greater muscle strength and stamina than their counterparts. Just imagine the next 50 years for these young girls, already vitamin D deficient, already physically impaired. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see how a lifetime of deficiency can lead to major problems. If you have a young girl in the family, do her a favor…make sure she spends 30 minutes a day in the sun (without sunblock). She’ll get 10,000 IUs of vitamin D from it. Plus, she’ll certainly have more natural “girl power”!
  18. More beach vacations for cardiac patients?

    Last week’s deluge of snow, ice and cold weather has got me thinking again about the “sunshine” vitamin (otherwise known as vitamin D)…and how most of us aren’t getting enough of it this winter. As frequently noted in the Guide to Good Health, the best source of vitamin D is the sun. You can get up to 10,000 IUs a day just by spending 30 minutes in the sun. But during the winter, many of us just scurry back and forth from the house to the car. Spending time in the sun just doesn’t happen. That’s not good, especially when you start looking at all the diseases that vitamin D has been shown to help prevent. It’s not just about osteoporosis Most of us know vitamin D is good for the bones. But it’s actually much more versatile than that. In fact, some nutritionists and scientists now believe vitamin D can protect you against:
    • cognitive decline
    • depression
    • heart failure
    • back pain
    • cancer
    • insulin resistance
    • pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
    • impaired immunity
    • macular degeneration
    • weight gain
    It’s food for your brain In addition to building strong bones, vitamin D seems to help prevent dementia and support brain function for older adults. In a study published in December 2008, researchers assessed the cognitive levels of almost 2,000 adults aged 65 and older. Scientists found that patients with the highest levels of serum vitamin D3 (an overall indicator of vitamin D levels in the body) also had the best cognitive functioning. By contrast, those with the lowest levels of D3 were four times as likely to have cognitive impairment. But that’s not all the vitamin D can do. It’s also one of nature’s best antidepressants Vitamin D helps to regulate melatonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain that give you a sense of well-being. Without enough of it, you’re at risk of feeling low. For instance, in a study published two years ago in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vitamin D3 was identified as a factor in regulating mood in older adults. Researchers found that patients with a D3 deficiency experienced depression. Some scientists also believe vitamin D is helpful in alleviating “seasonal affective disorder.” Not surprisingly, this condition is common up north where folks spend much of the year under snowy skies. They simply don’t get enough sunlight, their bodies lack vitamin D, and they become susceptible to the winter blues. But that’s not all. Recent studies suggest vitamin D also plays a role in heart health. Sunshine for your heart
    A few months back, one research team from the University of Michigan showed that vitamin D can protect against heart failure in rats. For 13 weeks, rats in a Michigan lab were divided into four groups: 1. Rats given high-salt diet (designed to simulate a “fast food” diet) 2. Rats on a high-salt diet given vitamin D 3. Rats on a healthy diet 4. Rats on a healthy diet given vitamin D At the end of the study, researchers found that rats on the fast food diet + vitamin D regimen faired much better than their counter parts receiving just the fast food diet. After just 13 weeks, the vitamin D treated rats had a lower heart weight. (This was really big news because an enlarged heart—known as “hypertrophy”—is all too common in heart failure patients. When hypertrophy happens in men and women, it makes the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. Your blood pressure rises. Even a simple walk to the mailbox becomes too much.) The treated rats’ hearts also worked less for each beat. They also maintained normal blood pressure. According to the study’s lead researcher, University of Michigan pharmacologist Robert U. Simpson, Ph.D., "Heart failure will progress despite the best medications. We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart." Simpson has studied vitamin D’s effects on the heart for more than 20 years. At first, his ideas were thought of as far-fetched and improbable. Now—his research is starting to bear fruit. I’m sure there’s more to come on the heart + vitamin D link… Even for Oprah and Vogue readers?
    There’s much more to learn about vitamin D, from its role in preventing cancer to stabilizing blood sugar to improving autoimmune disorders. It seems like even some mainstream news junkies are starting to catch on. A colleague told me that Vogue magazine ran a bit on it this month. And evidently, even Oprah’s spoken publically about being vitamin D deficient. You too may be deficient in this important vitamin. Many of us don’t spend much time outside (even in good weather). And many of us dutifully follow the marching orders to lather up the sun block before setting foot outdoors. Sun screen blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D. Or perhaps you’re of Latino or African-American descent and your skin contains lots of melanin (Just like sun screen, melanin blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D.) Some scientists believe that anyone living above New York City’s line of latitude NEVER absorbs enough vitamin D through their skin, even in the summertime. Whatever the reason why, I’m convinced most of us need more vitamin D. You can get a simple blood test if you think you might have a deficiency. Optimal levels are between 50-70 ng/mL. For anyone not getting regular sun exposure, I usually recommend taking 2000 IUs of vitamin D daily. In winter months, I’d go for 4000 IUs daily. (Remember, exposure of your full body to the sun for 30 minutes will give you 10,000 IUs or more of vitamin D. So there’s little risk of reaching an upper limit with this supplement.) You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks), liver, and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines).
    Keep up the good work and get some sunshine if you can.
  19. 75 Percent of Juvenile Diabetics Not Getting Enough Vitamin D

    A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics caught my attention this week. It said more than 75 percent of children with type-1 diabetes aren’t getting enough vitamin D. While I’m glad those darn pediatricians (the doctors most likely to put their head in the sand and keep it there) are paying attention to how much vitamin D their patients get, their solution to the problem is mind-boggling! Lead author of the study, Britta Svoren, M.D., wrote ‘We need to make sure all youths in general are getting enough vitamin D in their diets.’ In their diets? Are you kidding me! Do you know how many glasses of milk a kid have to drink to get the equivalent of just 30 minutes spent in the sun? Way too much! As you’ll recall in my Guide to Good Health (10-23-08) from just a few months ago entitled ‘Pour Yourself a Tall Glass of Sunshine,’ I reminded everyone that the best source of vitamin D is sunshine. Just a half hour of sunshine daily without sunscreen will give you up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D. This limited amount of time is also safe for children. So, if your child’s got type-I juvenile diabetes, make sure the little tyke gets some daily rays every day. Forget the milk. It’s full of hormones, hard to digest, and the cause of lots of allergies.

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