Friday, December 31, 2010

Brain Health: Vitamin D

Just in time for the winter months is a reminder about sunlight, blue light, sleep, and that all-important hormone, vitamin D.

We’ve talked at length about the importance of sleep hygienethe sleep-wake cycle, diet and exercise—but also of critical importance is the “sunshine vitamin,” the hormone we call “Vitamin D.” Readers of the BOOK- "It's not Mental" know how all this tied in to my daughter's full recovery from bipolar/schizoaffective disorder.

Historically, the FDA made a grave error in its vitamin D recommendation level due to a misunderstanding in the scientific community about what vitamin D does. Their recommendation was just high enough to prevent immediate damage (rickets) and immediate death but, at the time, they did not realize that this did not prevent slower long-term damage (“mental” illness, autoimmune diseases, lower immune function, obesity) and earlier deaths (cancer, heart attacks).

One of the most influential scientists responsible for the old FDA recommendation, Dr. Robert P. Heaney, M.D.) speaks out on the error he and his colleagues made (see video below).

Note that Dr. Heaney says in his talk that which vitamin D taken and which is measured in the blood matters – vitamin D3, not D2 is what the body requires, and it is the serum total 25(OH)D status that matters. Also, the “recommended” levels is actually the MINIMUM level – something to keep in mind when we read about “recommended” levels of a nutrient. (that video is embedded last, below)

Here is a very short CBS News video from 2008 stating that the new FDA recommendation for children is DOUBLE that of their previous recommendation. Doctors Now Say to Double Vitamin D  Note that from personal experience we found not to just go by taking supplements of Vitamin D3 since not everyone can absorb and utilize it the same; Testing of a person's Vitamin D level is necessary.  For instance, one person may have optimal levels on 2000 units per day while someone else may need more than 10,000 units per day. So have your doctor check your levels and not just go by the amount you ingest.

Although the minimal blood level  for vitamin D is 32, our experience has been that many doctors say between 50-70 is optimal, so they want us to supplement at least up to that blood level of 50.

Next, some people have a vitamin D Cell receptor polymorphism necessitating the intake of more vitamin D3 just to have an adequate amount in their cells. Again, we found this out the hard way, when one family member could not seem to get her vitamin D level up and there was bone involvement. At least once, you may want to either get genetically tested for this, or consider the SpectraCell Laboratories Micronutrient analysis which will determine the level inside your cells.

Next is a wonderfully easy-to understand 10 minute video exploring the history, current knowledge, and what to do about getting the proper dose and proper form (i.e. D3 rather than D2):

I highly recommend this lecture, below, (What is a Vitamin D Deficiency? ) for those intrepid souls wanting to watch the entertaining, fascinating, eye-opening full-length (45 minute) explanation of the importance of higher levels of vitamin D levels and what a vitamin D deficiency actually is and how the wrong recommendation occurred straight from the scientist responsible – Dr. Robert P. Heaney, M.D.

Note that he stresses that all these “recommended” amounts, are actually the MINIMUM amounts possible to prevent really bad things from happening to us! He says that since we dropped the word “minimum” the general public now thinks the FDA recommendations are optimal when they are not. They are still MINIMAL.
What is a Vitamin D Deficiency? 

For those who would prefer reading, here is a Scientific American article about vitamin D and brain function:
Does Vitamin D Improve Brain Function? New studies show low vitamin D levels may impair cognitive function

And lastly:

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Last Updated:
15 December 2011

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