The Nation's Health + vitamin D

vitamin D: Vitamin D2 belongs in the garbage

It happened yet again.

Mel came to the office. CT heart scan score: 799 --quite high, enough to pose a real threat very soon. Thus, no time to lose in instituting an effective prevention program.

We do the usual--identify the six causes of coronary plaque; begin fish oil, show him how to correct his plaque causes. You've heard it before.

Vitamin D blood level in March: 17 ng/ml--severe deficiency.

Vitamin D replacement needs to be a part of his coronary plaque control program. So I suggested 6000 units per day of an oil-based preparation of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Conveniently, there is a Vitamin Shoppe outlet across the street from my office. I just point and tell people to go across the street.

Mel did just that. However, he also informed his primary care physician about his vitamin D deficiency. His primary physician promptly told him he needed to take a prescription form of vitamin D and not to bother with just a supplement.

So Mel stopped his vitamin D capsules and started taking vitamin D prescription "medication." Mel figured, naturally, that if it requires a prescription, it must be better. Unfortunately, Mel and his doctor failed to pass the change in strategy onto us.

So, four months later, Mel got repeat vitamin D blood level: 19 ng/ml.

I've seen this too many times. The prescription form of vitamin D is nonsense. There's hardly any effect on blood levels of vitamin D3 at all. The body's conversion of this non-human form of D is extremely inefficient and therefore virtually useless. While it raises the blood level of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and thereby total D (D3 + D2), there is negligible effect on the real human and active form, D3.

How and why this preparation got through the FDA process to obtain approval as a drug is beyond me, though I am not a defender of FDA practices and politics.

This notion that "if it's a prescription, it must be better" is a fiction perpetuated by the drug industry. The same principle gets tossed around with fish oil, hormones like estrogens and testosterone, and others. Often, the principal difference between prescription and non-prescription is patent protection . Patent protection provides profit protection. Selling a product without patent protection can be risky business. It's certainly less profitable.

As always, getting at the truth is sometimes the most difficult job of all. Prescription vitamin D belongs in the garbage. Vitamin D capsules (gelcaps) do the job and do it well, over and over, with reliable, consistent and substantial rises in blood levels of 25-OH-vitamin D3. I take 6000 units per day (3 2000 unit capsules) that cost me $5.99 for a bottle of 120 capsules, or about $4.50 a month.

And nobody--nobody--pays me to say this. I say it because I believe it's true.

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