Friday, November 05, 2010

Dr. Sunshine

Recently  a very good friend was diagnosed with a chronic vitamin D deficiency. She had been extremely fatigued and had a fever, neck pain, you-name-it, so she finally went to the doctor and he figured it out. We were getting really worried there.

UPDATE: our friend feels so much better after 4 days of 2000IU. She also found out her neighbor was diagnosed with a D deficiency....also somebody that gets no sun and took no supplements.

UPDATE2: Turns out my sister and brother in law (live in vermont, don't get much sun) BOTH got put on 1000-2000 IU per day by their doctors a few months ago!

Coincidentally, I opened up Science News magazine this week and the back page interview is with Michael Holick, aka "Dr Sunshine", he was being interviewed about his new book "The Vitamin D solution".

I've been seeing more and more articles about the importance of vitamin D. In the last 10 years.... a lot of studies have found out that it's way more important than just preventing rickets. 

All these events conspired to make me blog about it.
This isn't just another vitamin fad (in fact D really turned out to be a hormone precursor). Tellingly, the most common ordered assay by doctors in the USA right now is for vitamin D deficiency.

Some study examples: 

  • 1200 UI per day reduced risk of children getting the flu by 50%
  •  women who ingest more than 400 IU of vitamin D a day reduce their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by as much as 42%.
  • postmenopausal women taking D over 4 years reduced the risk of cancer by 60 percent.

Humans evolved in sunlight, and our forbears were making ton's of D every day. Our body has adapted to that's estimated that upwards of 2000 genes are directly or indirectly regulated by D.

Luckily, for us runners (at least in sunny climes)  we get out there and have sun shining on us doesn't take too many minutes to get 1000s of units.

What about skin cancer? ..I put sunscreen on face, neck and arms and wear a hat when running..any places where it would be difficult to remove a carcinoma. 

But the legs have a lot of area and it's easy to remove a carcinoma from them (compared to say, your ear!). So let the legs be your D absorbers.  Even the legs should get sunscreen before any sunburn've gotten plently of D before then.

When I turned  50, my Dr recommended that I take a vitamin and mineral suppliment (body isn't as efficient at getting it out of food..better safe than sorry) , and that gives me 400 IU a day beyond what my legs make and I get from fortified milk.
Dr Sunshine recommends at least 400-1000 per day for children and 1500 to 2000 for adults.

Anyway, check it out. If you live in a dark winter clime you probably need more vitamin D that you are getting (especially if you are dark skinned). The downsides of a vitamin D deficiency develop subtly over time and masquerade  like a lot of other be aware!


Looking forward to the long run this weekend...probably 18 miles or so at 10:00/mile.


  1. I asked for a vitamin D assay last year from my internist. When it came back in the "insufficient" category (just a hair above deficiency, actually), the internist said "no problem." But when I shared the results with my oncologist a week later during my semi-annual check-up, I came home with a prescription for a month of mega-supplement vitamen D and a re-check vitamin D assay a month later. I guess everyone doesn't agree yet on the vitamin D issue. Interestingly, the cancer doc thought it was a problem.

  2. @Anonymous:

    Interesting. I think not all doctors have gotten the message..but many have. Just goes to show you that being informed is useful.


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