A recent report from the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) on the role of and the recommended dosage of vitamin D has come into controversy. The IOM last reported on vitamin D back in 1997, when it made the recommendation of a 200 IUs of vitamin D per day. In spite of its current 300% increase dose recommendation, several health experts are taking exception with these new recommendations. One of these experts is Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Willett says that it is time to raise the recommended levels of vitamin D, and there is ample evidence to do so. Dr. Willett's research group at the Harvard School of Public health created a study on vitamin D and health outcomes. Blood samples were taken from 30,000 healthy women to identify their level of vitamin D. The study then followed these women for decades to see which of the group might develop cancer.
The team found that the subjects with the lowest levels of vitamin D had two times the increased risk of colon cancer compared to the subjects who had the highest levels of vitamin D. While this study did not prove vitamin D protects against cancer, other animal studies demonstrated that vitamin D reduced the rate of how quickly cells multiply. The main characteristic of carcinoma, or cancer, is rapid rate of cell division and cell growth.
Vitamin D has proven to be important in osteoporosis studies, muscle and bone studies and cancer prevention. There seems to be little question to whether or not this essential vitamin is something we should be mindful of getting enough of. The question is just how much the correct amount is for each individual.
In my practice I recommend a simple blood test to measure the level of vitamin D. The ideal measure is between 20 and 29 ng/ml, which has been found to be the measure of vitamin D in women who demonstrate the lowest level of bone fragility.
It behooves all physicians to not only measure their patient’s calcium levels but also to include a baseline for vitamin D as well. As vitamin D is essential for the utilization of calcium, this makes good sense. It is a preventative approach to care and an effective way to determine an individual’s need for vitamin D.
Simply by taking a specific dose of Vitamin D for 8 weeks and then re-testing to see if that dose is effective to reach the 20 to 29 ng/ml level is a low-cost and accurate way to establish appropriate vitamin D supplementation for each unique patient. The key to correct vitamin D supplementation lies in taking the dose that is right for you. Osteoporosis clinics determine supplementation recommendations with blood sample analysis to establish the right dosage each patient. Ask your doctor about this simple test and how you can identify the best vitamin D dose for you.
- Dr. Georgianna Donadio