Vitamin D: ‘Promising But Not Yet Proven’

March 29th, 201011:27 am @ Angela Odom


NPR has an interesting story today on vitamin D entitled “Are We Overselling The Sunshine Vitamin?” I read it and at times I found myself feeling a healthy dose of cynicism falling over me.

The cynicism comes from my personal experiences with doctors over the years, experiences I will not revisit here. As a result, when I hear a doctor say “not so fast” with vitamin D, I can’t help the suspicion that arises. My first question is, are they backed by big pharm and as such they are going to push-back against a cheap little supplement?

I also like a little balance and as mentioned in the article, many years ago everyone was extolling the virtues of selenium and beta-carotene too and they proved to not work as well or as promised. In fact, the studies showed for those taking beta-carotene, they actually had a higher risk of lung cancer. Not good.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, points out in the article that the studies on vitamin D are what scientists call “observational,” meaning they compare people with high and low levels of vitamin D and correlate those levels with whether or not the person has a disease.

“We don’t yet have the large-scale, randomized clinical trials showing benefits in terms of prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cognitive decline, depression, autoimmune disease,” Manson says.

Another doctor, Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University, states “there’s overwhelming evidence … that increasing your vitamin D intake can make substantial improvement in your overall health and welfare. And there is no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake. As a result I think that most people are now getting on the bandwagon.”

Let the dueling doctors begin. I have noticed one thing since following my doctor’s advice on vitamin D, my blood pressure has gone down considerably and this happened pre-chemo. I will also admit dropping vitamin D briefly — about four weeks — to see if I noticed anything different. Sans an increase in pain, I found my blood pressure elevated slightly from a typical 117/67 to 140/78, but not enough to be terribly dangerous.

In terms of the increase in pain, Dr. Holick does state in the article he has seen dramatic results in patients he has treated with vitamin D supplements for disorders such as fibromyalgia — muscular aches and pains — and he believes vitamin D supplements lower patients’ risk of cancer and heart disease, although he acknowledges that’s harder to show.

I neither considered, nor did I know vitamin D could reduce or eliminate pain. I did not know this and it’s possible when I conducted my little experiment I experienced an increase in pain. I don’t know. What I do know is my blood pressure did elevate slightly. I was not off the stuff long enough to call it an exact science, I only stopped taking it for about 4 to 4-1/2 weeks. I have since returned to taking my daily dose of D.

Interesting, The National Institutes of Health is devoting $22 million for a five-year study to include twenty-thousand people across the country. Some will take vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid together or alone. Others will take an inert placebo pill. This should be interesting but it will take five years to know the answer.

Until then, I will continue with my daily dose of vitamin D because of the improvements I have noticed with my health. Since the sun can be irritating, it’s probably not a bad idea.

You can read more and listen at NPR.

Are We Overselling The Sunshine Vitamin?