Vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic in the United States, but many Americans, including physicians, are not aware that they may be lacking this important nutrient.Despite its name, vitamin D is not a regular vitamin. It’s actually a steroid hormone that you get primarily from either sun exposure or supplementation, and its ability to influence genetic expression that produces many of its wide-ranging health benefits.Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half.Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.In this interview, one of the leading vitamin D researchers, Dr. Michael Holick, expounds on these and many other health benefits of vitamin D. He’s both an MD and a PhD, and wrote the book, The Vitamin D Solution.Since the early 2000’s, scientific investigations into the effects of vitamin D have ballooned. By the end of 2012, there were nearly 34,000 of them. Dr. Holick is one of those who has really helped advance our understanding of the massive importance of vitamin D—far beyond its influence on bone metabolism.“I’ve been doing vitamin D research for more than 40 years,” he says. “As a graduate student for my master’s degree, I was responsible for identifying the major circulating form of vitamin D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D that doctors typically measure now for vitamin D status in their patients. For my Ph.D.,I identified the active form of vitamin D [1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D] while working at Dr. DeLuca’s laboratory.”
Are You Vitamin D Deficient?
Before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that you might be vitamin D deficient. But as the technology to measure vitamin D became inexpensive and widely available, more and more studies were done, and it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was absolutelyrampant. For example:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 32 percent of children and adults throughout the US were vitamin D deficient
- The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 50 percent of children aged one to five years old, and 70 percent of children between the ages of six to 11, are deficient or insufficient in vitamin D
- Researchers such as Dr. Holick estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiencyI’ve often said that when it comes to vitamin D, you don’t want to be in the “average” or “normal” range, you want to be in the “optimal” range. The reason for this is that as the years have gone by, researchers have progressively moved that range upward.At present, based on the evaluation of healthy populations that get plenty of natural sun exposure, the optimal range for general health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml. For treatment of chronic disease such as cancer, recommendations go even a bit higher than that.