Vitamin D: An essential nutrient

Vitamin D
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Vitamin D was once much over-looked, but no longer. It is not just a “bone vitamin”. Research shows that nearly every tissue and cell type in our bodies have receptors for vitamin D. In fact, Michael Holick, MD, a pioneer in vitamin D research has found that higher doses of D are required for optimal functioning. Unfortunately low vitamin D levels make you 91% more likely to progress to insulin resistance, or “pre-diabetes”. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with increased risks of cardiovascular and neurological disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Vitamin D deficiency can increase risk of non-Alzheimer’s dementia by 20 times! Current data reveals 64% of Americans don’t have adequate vitamin D. In fact vitamin D deficiency is a global epidemic.
Some people have the ability to produce adequate vitamin D for their bodies, but the vast majority of people need to take supplements to achieve a healthy level. Nearly every tissue type in our body has receptors for vitamin D, and because of these receptors vitamin D is now defined as a true hormone and not a vitamin at all. It is becoming evident that vitamin D helps regulate the genes that control cell growth and development, immune function, and metabolic control.
One of the most remarkable recent findings has to do with slowing progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes. In a 16-week study involving obese, non diabetic adults who supplemented with 2000 IU/day of vitamin D glucose (sugar) clearance improved significantly and insulin secretion from the pancreas also improved. Control subjects (those not taking vitamin D) showed a worsening of these values.
Checking vitamin D levels is still not the standard of care for many health care providers. If you haven’t had your level checked recently you should ask to add this to your routine lab panel. Supplementation with vitamin D3 taken at a dose of 2000 IU/day has shown to be protective against cardiovascular and neurological disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Many people need higher doses to achieve optimal levels, and due to the fat-soluble properties of vitamin D it is important to have levels evaluated periodically to determine the appropriate dose.
Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many healthcare professionals continue to consider vitamin D essential only for bone health. The discovery of the vitamin D receptor in nearly all human tissue provides evidence of its vital importance. Currently the majority of Americans have insufficient vitamin D levels to promote and support good health and defend against chronic disease. Consider talking with your health care professional about testing and dosing. You owe it to yourself!

Laurie D. McGinley, DNP, CNS-BC, APN, CBN