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The hottest topic in medicine isn’t the newest drug or the latest surgical device: It’s vitamin D.

What brought the simmering debate to a boil was a 2007 study showing that people taking normal vitamin D supplements were 7% less likely to die than those who didn’t take the daily supplements.

A year later, a major study found that when women with low vitamin D levels get breast cancer, they have a much higher chance of dying from their cancer than women with normal vitamin D levels.

That was surprising news. But just as surprising is the fact that many men, women, and children have insufficient blood levels of this important vitamin.

How many?… Data suggest many of us don’t get the vitamin D we need. For example, a 2007 study of childbearing women in the Northern U.S. found insufficient vitamin D levels in 54% of black women and in 42% of white women.

These findings led the American Academy of Pediatrics to double the recommended amount of vitamin D a child should take — and have led many doctors to advise their adult patients to up their vitamin D intake.

Why do I need vitamin D?

Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia). You also need vitamin D for other important body functions.

Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies. These studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease, although they do not definitively prove that lack of vitamin D causes disease — or that vitamin D supplements would lower risk.

The Vitamin D Council — a scientist-led group promoting vitamin D deficiency awareness — suggests vitamin D treatment might be found helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis.

The best-known benefit of vitamin D is its role in helping calcium build strong bones. But that’s far from the whole story. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular system. Vitamin D also plays major roles in the life cycle of human cells.

Vitamin D is so important that your body makes it by itself — but only after skin exposure to sufficient sunlight. This is a problem for people in northern climates. In the U.S., only people who live south of a line drawn from Los Angeles to Columbia, S.C., get enough sunlight for vitamin D production throughout the year.

Dark skin absorbs less sunlight, so people with dark skin do not get as much vitamin D from sun exposure as do light-skinned people. This is a particular problem for African-Americans in the northern U.S.

How can I get enough vitamin D?

Thirty minutes of sun exposure to the face, legs, or back — without sunscreen — at least twice a week should give you plenty of vitamin D.

But this much direct sun exposure might also expose you to potentially dangerous levels of cancer-causing UV radiation. And unless you live in the South or Southwest, you probably won’t get enough sunlight during the winter months for your body to make enough vitamin D.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends against getting vitamin D from unprotected exposure to sunlight.

It’s a better idea to get vitamin D from foods or from supplements.

Will a vitamin D test tell me if I need more vitamin D?

Yes. As part of your regular blood test, your doctor should order a test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD).

Everyone agrees that anyone with a 25-OHD level of less than 15 ng/mL or 37.5 nmol/L (depending on the units reported by a lab) needs more vitamin D.  A 2002 study found that 42% of African-American women of childbearing age had vitamin D levels below 15 ng/mL.

Which foods contain vitamin D?

Surprisingly few foods contain vitamin D — unless it’s added to the food. That’s because your body is built to get vitamin D through your skin (from sunlight) rather than through your mouth (by food). But once your body has enough, it doesn’t matter whether you got it through your skin or through your stomach.

There are three vitamin D super foods:

  • Salmon (especially wild-caught)
  • Mackerel (especially wild-caught; eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury)
  • Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D

Other food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Cod liver oil (warning: cod liver oil is rich in vitamin A; too much may be bad for you)
  • Tuna canned in water
  • Sardines canned in oil
  • Milk or yogurt — regardless of whether it’s whole, nonfat, or reduced fat — fortified with vitamin D
  • Beef or calf liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

Nearly all milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. So are many brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

How much vitamin D do I need?

The current recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 200 IU for people up to age 50, 400 IU for people aged 51 to 70, and 600 IU for people over age 70.

That’s not enough, Boston University vitamin D expert , MD, PhD, tells WebMD. Holick recommends a dose of 1,000 IU a day of vitamin D for both infants and adults — unless they’re getting plenty of safe sun exposure.

In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that breastfed infants receive 400 IU of vitamin D every day until they are weaned. This doubled the AAP’s previous recommendation.

The AAP also recommends 400 IU/day of vitamin D for children and teens who drink less than a quart of vitamin D-fortified milk per day.

The Vitamin D Council recommends that healthy adults take 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily — more if they get little or no sun exposure.

There’s evidence that people with a lot of body fat need more vitamin D than lean people.

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board is currently updating its 1997 vitamin D recommendations. A report is expected later in 2010.

Can I get too much vitamin D?

Too much of any good thing is a bad thing. Too much vitamin D can cause an abnormally high blood calcium level, which could result in nausea, constipation, confusion, abnormal heart rhythm, and even kidney stones.

It’s nearly impossible to get too much vitamin D from sunlight or from foods (unless you take way too much cod liver oil). Nearly all vitamin D overdoses come from supplements.

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board’s 1997 recommendations — scheduled for a May 2010 update — suggest that 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D is safe for adults and that 1,000 IU per day is safe for infants up to 12 months of age.

However, the relatively small doses of vitamin D in daily vitamin pills are not enough to correct serious vitamin D deficiency. A 2009 study suggested that the best regimen for treating vitamin D insufficiency is 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 taken three times a week for six weeks. This time-limited regimen did not result in vitamin D toxicity.

How much vitamin D is too much?

That’s controversial. According to the National Institutes of Health, the maximum upper limit for vitamin D is 25 micrograms (1,000 IU) for children up to age 12 months and 50 micrograms (2,000 IU) for everyone else.

But some recent studies suggest that healthy adults can tolerate more than 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day. John Jacob Cannell, MD, executive director of The Vitamin D Council, notes that the skin makes 10,000 IU of vitamin D after 30 minutes of full-body sun exposure. He suggests that 10,000 IU of vitamin D is not toxic.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 25-OHD levels that are consistently over 200 ng/mL are “potentially toxic.”

What kind of vitamin D is best?

The recommended form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. This is the natural form of vitamin D that your body makes from sunlight.

Many supplements contain vitamin D as vitamin D2 or calciferol. It’s derived from irradiated fungus. Because this is not the form of vitamin D naturally made by your body, nutritionists and medical doctors recommend using the D3 form for those taking vitamin D supplements.

Does vitamin D interact with other medications?

Yes. Steroid medications such as prednisone can interfere with vitamin D metabolism. If you take steroid drugs regularly, discuss vitamin D with your doctor.

The weight loss drug orlistat — brand names include Xenical and Alli — may cut absorption of vitamin D. So does the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine (sold as Questran, LoCholest, and Prevalite). People taking these drugs should discuss vitamin intake with their doctors.

The seizure drugs Phenobarbital and Dilantin (phenytoin), affect vitamin D metabolism and affect calcium absorption. So do anti-tuberculosis drugs.

On the other hand, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and thiazide diuretics increase vitamin D levels.

BOTTOMLINE:

Unless you live beneath the “Sun Line” from Los Angeles, California to Columbia, South Carolina or want to increase your risk of skin cancer you need to supplement with Vitamin D

Life Force International’s liquid calcium supplement OsteoProCare provides you with 1200mg of Calcium, 600mg of Magnesium, 2000 IU of Vitamin D3, Boron, Zinc, Selenium and much, much more.

To order this supplement call John @ Healthy LifeStyle Marketing (805) 646-1999 or by Email: healthy_lifestyle@roadrunner.com

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When you were a child, your mother probably told you: “Drink your milk. You need the calcium for healthy bones and teeth.”

Well, mom was right. Calcium does help keep bones and teeth strong, and it also plays a key role in other vital bodily functions. But what your mother couldn’t have predicted are the recent headlines heralding calcium as a possible player in the fight against many ailments.

Now the bad news: nearly half of all Americans don’t get enough of this essential mineral.

Here’s how calcium can help protect your health—and how to be sure you’re getting enough.

Lowering Blood Pressure

More than 50 million Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension). What’s so frightening about this so-called silent killer is that it often does not produce symptoms for years, secretly damaging arteries and organs throughout the body until it erupts in the form of stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure or kidney disease. If left untreated, even mild hypertension can reduce the life expectancy of a 35- year-old by several years. (Readings of 140 to 159 over 90 to 99 are mildly high; about 120/80 is normal.)

That’s why high blood pressure is commonly treated with antihypertensive drugs. But studies suggest that in some people an increase in calcium consumption can help control blood pressure without medication.

Calcium also seems to help prevent high blood pressure. Evaluating the results of a 13-year survey undertaken by the National Center for Health Statistics, James H. Dwyer, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, found that people who consumed 1300 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day were 12 percent less likely to develop hypertension than those consuming only 300 mg a day. In people under age 40, risk was reduced by up to 25 percent.

Soon doctors may urge some hypertension patients to increase their calcium intake, much the way they now advise sodium restriction. “It’s easier to add food or supplements than to go on a low-sodium diet,” asserts Dr. David McCarron, professor of medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. “Our studies show that people who try the low-sodium approach don’t stay with it very long.”

Preventing Heart Disease

Several studies suggest that there’s another way calcium may shield the heart from harm: it may help lower blood cholesterol. In a study led by Dr. Margo A. Denke, associate professor of internal medicine at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, 13 men with moderately high cholesterol levels were given a low-calcium diet (410 mg of calcium daily) for ten days, and had their cholesterol levels checked.

Then, over another ten days, the men were on a fortified diet that supplied 2200 mg of calcium daily. End result: the high-calcium regimen reduced their levels of total cholesterol by six percent and slashed “bad” LDL cholesterol by 11 percent.

What’s more, “good” HDL cholesterol levels stayed the same. Denke and her colleagues report that getting plenty of calcium may be an effective adjunct to traditional cholesterol-lowering diet therapies.

McCarron agrees: “If you increase your calcium intake—whether with diet or supplements—your cholesterol gets better.”

Easing Menstrual Woes

There’s no cure yet for pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)—those unpleasant physical and mental complaints some women endure every month prior to menstruation. But several studies suggest that calcium can help tame PMS.

Researchers led by psychologist James G. Penland at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D., studied ten women suffering common menstrual and premenstrual symptoms. All the women spent half the study period on a diet containing 600 mg of calcium daily, and half on a diet containing 1300 mg daily.

While on the high-calcium diet, 70 percent reported less pain, such as backaches and cramping, during the menstrual phase, and 80 percent had less water retention during the premenstrual phase. Ninety percent experienced less crying, irritability and depression throughout their monthly cycles.

Avoiding Kidney Stones

For years doctors have told patients who suffer from kidney stones to limit calcium. The reason: calcium is a major component in about 80 percent of all stones.

But controversial new research suggests that the way to reduce the risk of kidney stones may be to increase calcium intake. (personal note here: I have been taking a liquid calcium supplement for over 5 years daily…no stones…no hypertension etc.)

In a Harvard School of Public Health study, Dr. Gary C. Curhan and colleagues followed 45,510 men with no history of kidney stones for four years. Those on diets high in calcium (a daily average of 1326 mg) were found to cut their risk of developing stones by one-third, compared with men who consumed the least calcium (516 mg per day).

Skeptics stress the difficulty of establishing calcium as the factor in this reduction of risk. They caution kidney-stone patients to consult with their physicians before changing their dietary habits.

Fighting Osteoporosis

Characterized by a gradual thinning and weakening of the bones, osteoporosis affects more than seven million Americans—most of them women—with another 17 million at serious risk. In the disease’s advanced stages, vertebrae can become so fragile that they easily collapse, often leading to a debilitating curving of the
spine. Increasing fragility can also mean greater risk of fractures, especially crippling fractures of the hip.

Dozens of studies show that increasing calcium intake can be vital in slowing bone loss and reducing fracture rates brought on by osteoporosis. This is especially true when calcium is taken with vitamin D, which increases the ability of the body to absorb the mineral.

In a 1992 French study of 1765 women over age 69, those who were given supplements containing 1200 mg of calcium and 20 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D had an average 2.7-percent increase in bone mass in the hips and thighs after 18 months. Women taking only a placebo suffered a 4.6-percent loss in bone mass.

Over the same period, the women taking calcium and vitamin D had 43-percent fewer hip fractures than the control group. Many experts think that the time to start increasing calcium intake is in adolescence, when most adult bone mass is being formed.

According to Dr. Robert P. Heaney, professor of medicine at Omaha’s Creighton University, “There’s very good evidence that at least the last two generations of American women have consumed an inadequate amount of calcium beginning
in puberty.” As baby boomers grow older, says Heaney, osteoporosis could become an epidemic. Luckily it’s never too late to start getting plenty of this vital mineral.
Do You Get Enough Calcium?

The current recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of calcium are 400 mg for children under six months; 600 mg for children six months to a year; 800 mg for children one to ten and men and women over 25; 1200 mg for people 11 to 24 and pregnant or lactating women.

In light of recent findings, however, experts are reevaluating the amount of calcium needed to maintain good health. Scientists assembled by the National Institutes of Health in 1994 found that the RDA may be too low for many people. And, on average, Americans get considerably less than the RDA.

The committee has recommended raising the RDAs to these levels: 1000 mg for women 25 to 50, women 51 to 65 taking hormone replacement therapy and men 25 to 65; 1200 to 1500 mg for people 11 to 24, and pregnant and lactating women; 1500 mg for women 51 to 65 not taking HRT and for people over 65.

Pregnant women need extra calcium to help the fetal skeleton form and, several studies suggest, to help prevent pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders, a major cause of premature, underweight births. The elderly need more calcium to make up for a decline in the body’s ability to absorb the mineral.

One of the best sources of calcium is dairy products (one cup of skim milk equals 96.3 mg of calcium; 8 oz. of nonfat yogurt equal 96 mg). Other calcium-rich fare includes: tofu with calcium (1/2 cup equals 80 mg); pink, canned salmon with bones (3 oz. equal 58 mg); Chinese cabbage (1/2 cup equals 42.5 mg); kale (1/2 cup equals 27.6 mg); sardines (1 oz. equals 29 mg); rutabaga (1/2 cup equals 22.1 mg); white beans (1/2 cup equals 19.2 mg); and broccoli (1/2 cup equals 18.4 mg).

It can be difficult to get enough calcium from food alone—especially if you don’t like or are allergic to milk.

Two possibilities for those who need to boost calcium intake are calcium-enriched products (such as fortified cereals, juices or breads) and supplements.

The safety of calcium supplements, however, has been controversial. Some types—particularly those made from bone meal—may contain lead, which at high levels can stunt young children’s growth and I.Q.

The most commonly recommended calcium supplement is calcium citrate. However calcium citrate contains low levels of elemental calcium and therefore would require that you take more than the daily amount listed on the bottle. Plus the majority of this type of supplement is in  a hard to absorb pill form.

Some people recommend  antacids that contain calcium carbonate. MY PERSONAL OPINION IS THIS IS  A WASTE OF TIME, MONEY AND THE OTHER INGREDIENTS IN THE ANTACID ARE UNNEEDED.

PLUS, calcium carbonate is the hardest type of calcium to absorb…UNLESS IT IS COMBINED WITH AN ACID SUCH AS OROTIC ACID.

Calcium carbonate contain the HIGHEST amount of elemental calcium available and when chelated with orotic acid you come up with CALCIUM OROTATE; WHICH IS THE HIGHEST ABSORBABLE  FORM FOR A CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT.

“Taking 500 to 1000 mg of calcium in supplement form can be an insurance policy,” says Dr. McCarron, “especially for older people and pregnant women.”

Getting enough of this “miracle” mineral every day may require a small effort. If you consider the payoff—good health—it’s worth it.


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