The Nation's Health + [vitamin D]

Dangerous mis-information on vitamin D

Healthcare

Please be aware of the ignorant propagating information they have no business talking about.

This is one such example, a newsletter from pop exercise guru, Denise Austin.

Although I'm sure she means well, I have a problem with people who have little to no experience acting as experts, often simply repeating something they heard or read somewhere else. This has become particular problem with the internet, in which bad information can get repeated thousands of times, gaining a veil of "truth" through its repetition. I don't mean to pick specifically on Ms. Austin, since she joins a growing rank of pseudo-experts on vitamin D and other topics, but she provides a good example of how far wrong mainstream information can be.

Simple Steps
Do Your D!

Calcium often gets all the glory when it comes to bone health. But calcium wouldn't benefit your bones much without its partner, vitamin D!

Why? Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and keeps your bones strong; without enough vitamin D, the bones become weak and brittle, a condition called rickets in children, and osteomalacia in adults. Adults from 19 to 50 need 200 IU (international units) per day, while those from 51 to 70 need 400 IU daily. Those over 70 need 600 IU per day.

Unfortunately, not too many foods contain vitamin D naturally. (Tuna and sardines canned in oil are exceptions.) The good news is that many foods are now regularly fortified with vitamin D, including milk, some yogurts, margarines, and cereals. You can check the Nutrition Facts panel on packages and containers to see which products contain vitamin D. It should be listed after vitamins A and C, along with the percentage of the Daily Value that a serving of the food contains. The Daily Value (a standardized amount) for vitamin D is 400 IU, so if your milk has 25 percent of the Daily Value, it provides 100 IU per serving.

Your skin can also make vitamin D using sunlight — you need about a half hour of exposure to the midday sun twice a week to make enough. However, because of the increasing incidence of skin cancer in recent years, many experts are wary about recommending sun exposure.

So take a closer look at milk, yogurt, cereal, and margarine selections when you're doing your weekly shopping, and stock up on brands that are fortified with vitamin D. Challenge yourself to consume one source of vitamin D at least three days in the coming week! If you cannot eat or do not like any foods that contain vitamin D or are fortified with it, talk with your health care provider ASAP about taking a supplement. Your bones will thank you for it!

Let me list the mistakes in this piece:

Adults from 19 to 50 need 200 IU (international units) per day, while those from 51 to 70 need 400 IU daily. Those over 70 need 600 IU per day.

This is the same non-information that was the advice originally offered by the Food and Nutrition Board based on a best guesstimate due to lack of data. It is clear from newer data that doses required for full restoration of vitamin D are in the thousands of units. (My personal dose for full restoration of vitamin judged by serum levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D is 8000 units per day.)

The information coming from the Food and Nutrition Board is about as good as the information coming from the USDA (you know, that "government" agency meant to represent the interests of ConAgra, Cargill, and Big Farming) and the American Heart Association (that represents consensus opinion from data 20 years out of date and now arm-in-arm with Big Food like General Mills, Kraft, and Nabisco). These agencies and the advice they offer has, over the past few years, become increasingly irrelevant and outdated . It is the Information Age, in which ulterior motives are becoming more readily exposed, yet they still operate by the rules of the Industrial Age and deliver a message that serves their own purposes.

Ms. Austin fell for it.

The good news is that many foods are now regularly fortified with vitamin D, including milk, some yogurts, margarines, and cereals.

First of all, what is a "diet expert" doing advocating industrial foods? Cereals, in particular, are among the worst foods on the supermarket shelves, whether or not they are fortified. Candy bars can be fortified, too; that doesn't make them any better for you.

The vitamin D added to these foods is, more often than not, the ergocalcferol, or D2, form that is woefully ineffective. And the dose added is trivial, usually in the 100-200 unit range per serving. The same goes for the milk, an inadequate source that we don't even factor into total intakes because of the low quantity.


Your skin can also make vitamin D using sunlight — you need about a half hour of exposure to the midday sun twice a week.

Nope. This might be true for a young person below age 30 in a southern environment. It is NOT true for the majority of people in northern climates and anyone over age 30 or 40, since we lose most of the capacity to activate vitamin D in the skin as we age . A deep, dark Florida tan does not necessarily mean that vitamin D has been activated. See A tan does not equal vitamin D. Here in Wisconsin, where, despite this darn cold winter, does enjoy wonderfully warm and beautiful summers, the average vitamin D dose need ranges from 4000-8000 units per day in summer, slightly more in winter.

By the way, it is not calcium that is instrumental to bone health. It is vitamin D. Calcium is the passive bricks and mortar of bones, while vitamin D is the bricklayer, the determinant of calcium's fate, the master control of bone health. Calcium supplementation becomes almost immaterial when vitamin D is restored.

I praise Ms. Austin for her hard work, trying to help fat Americans lose weight. But please ignore her advice on vitamin D, along with the numbing repetition of this mis-information that will likely propagate from other exercise gurus, dietitians, and pseudoexperts.