The Nation's Health + [vitamin D]

vitamin D: Poor, neglected vitamin D!

We now routinely check blood levels of vitamin D in all our patients. I am reminded everyday that, if you're a resident of a northern climate (as we are in Wisconsin and similarly in Michigan, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc.), the overwhelming likelihood is that you are deficient in vitamin D. And not just a little deficient, but severely deficient.

As humans, we're meant to obtain vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. This was how humans evolved. We are all ill-equipped to get vitamin D through nutritional sources. The average (Wisconsin) patient we see has vitamin D blood levels of 17-30 ng/dl. Most authorities would agree that a level of 30 ng or less would constitute severe deficiency. An ideal level is probably around 50 ng, what many (but not all) residents of southern climates like Florida, Texas, and Hawaii have if they get frequent sun exposure.

When vitamin D levels are normal, bone health is maximized (inhibiting osteoporosis); prostate, uterine, breast, and colon health is heightened and cancer risk diminished; pre-diabetic and diabetic patterns are suppressed and blood sugar reduced; blood pressure drops 10 mgHg, on average;and inflammatory measures like C-reactive protein are substantialy reduced. But, of greatest interest to us, coronary plaque is easier to regress .

Although our experience in the last several hundred people is still anecdotal, I believe that I'm seeing a dramatic increase in the amount and rapidity of coronary plaque regression. People we've struggled with are suddenly regressing. People with higher heart scan scores (e.g., >500) are regressing more readily.

We're accumulating our data and it will take a couple more years to develop it in a scientifically-useful format. But, in the meantime, adding vitamin D to your program or having your vitamin D level checked may be among the most important steps you can take to gain control over coronary plaque. Be sure to ask your doctor to get the right blood test: it must be 25-OH-vitamin D3. (The wrong test is the 1,25-OH2-vitamin D3; though they look and sound the same, they measure very different parts of the vitamin D pathway.) Also, Track Your Plaque members: read Dr. John Cannell's tremendous summary of the vitamin D experience on the Track Your Plaque website.