Tag Archives: Vitamin

Exercise and Vitamin D Strike Again!

The more we study exercise and vitamin D, the more benefits we find.  The great thing about that is they are both very safe treatment options.  In this video, Dr. Court discusses the recent report by the US Preventative Services Task Force that shows exercise and vitamin D are the best treatments to prevent falls in the elderly!

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Do Supplements Kill?

Nutritional supplements

Supplement Aisle

A study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has concluded that taking multi vitamins and several other supplements was actually associated with an increased risk of mortality (or death).  We’ve seen these studies before and I have several thoughts on them.

First, I do not believe supplements will increase your risk of death.  Supplements are exceptionally safe.  They are so safe, in fact, that they are all sold over-the-counter.  However, supplements are also very effective in helping people with a wide variety of conditions.  With that power can come potential for unwanted side effects.  We must understand that if something has the power to do good it also has the power to do bad.  Let’s break down the study and see how the authors came to the conclusion that they did.

They assessed the use of vitamin and mineral supplements in relation to total mortality in 38,772 older women in the Iowa Women’s Health Study; mean age was 61.6 years at baseline in 1986.  Supplement use was self-reported in 1986, 1997, and 2004.  Their conclusion to the study was as follows:

“In older women, several commonly used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased total mortality risk; this association is strongest with supplemental iron. In contrast to the findings of many studies, calcium is associated with decreased risk.”

I have several problems with this study. The first is that use of supplements was self-reported.  And the time frame with which they reported was years apart. This is a problem because you are asking people to remember what they are taking.  I do this every day in my practice and many of my patients can’t remember what they’re taking day-to-day and I see them on a monthly basis.

The study also only shows an association, not cause and effect.  This is dangerous because studies like this get huge headlines and inevitably the headlines shout about how dangerous supplements are when, in fact, they are very safe.

To show you just how flimsy an association link in a study may be here is a good example. Say you wanted to study breast cancer and you wanted to look at what is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. You might conclude that wearing make-up is associated with a much higher rate of breast cancer than not wearing make-up.  You came to this conclusion because you noticed that people who wear make-up get breast cancer at much higher rates that people who do not.  This sounds legitimate of the surface.  Perhaps there is something in the make-up that is carcinogenic.  Or perhaps people who wear make-up are much more likely to get breast cancer than people who do not for another reason. We know that breast cancer is far more common in women and they also happen to wear the most make-up.  An association can easily be shown between people who wear make-up and breast cancer, but it likely not for the right reasons.

Another shortcoming of the study is that the researchers did not know whether the women were taking the supplements for a specific health condition.  People often begin taking supplements because they do not feel well.  They may be experiencing sleep problems, low energy,  head aches or worse.  These symptoms may be signs of deeper problems. We cannot be sure these women did not die from the very condition they were trying to treat and not the supplements.

Thirdly, the increase in mortality was exceptionally small and likely is not clinically significant. What that means is that the results were so minuscule they have almost no observable effect.  It was also noted that the women who used the supplements were almost twice a likely to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) while going through menopause.  HRT is known to increase the rates of many cancers.

The researchers did take hormone therapy into account in their analysis, along with several other potentially mitigating factors (including age, educational attainment, body mass index, diet, and physical activity).  What I don’t see on this list is prescription drug use.  This must be known for this study to hold any water! Drugs are obtained via prescription for one reason and one reason only – they are dangerous!  They are a leading cause of death in the United States!  If they did not consider drug use then how can they possibly conclude it was the supplements that increased mortality rates?  They can’t!

While I don’t agree with the conclusion of the study, I agree that men and women should seek the advice of someone trained in nutrition and skilled at building a personalized program for each individual.  I never recommend going to the health food store and picking up one of everything and beginning to take them.  As a matter of fact, I rarely recommend multi vitamins.  Not everyone needs more of everything.  Targeted nutrition should be your goal.

Remember, supplements are extremely safe and just because one study concludes that there is an association between supplements and mortality does not mean you should stop taking them, especially if they’ve benefited you.

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10 Way to Live Longer and Healthier

Two views of local Extension leaders drilling ...

Image by Cornell University Library

Exercise –

Exercising is a key to staying healthy and research shows that people who exercise age more slowly. This is perhaps due to the fact that exercise has been associated with preventing telomere shortening.  Telomeres are strands of DNA at the ends of each chromosome that shorten as we age.

Don’t Smoke –

Smoking causes the skin to wrinkle and wreaks havoc on our brains, heart and lungs.  The inflammation caused by smoking is thought to speed the aging process.

Eat a Healthy Diet –

You are what you eat.  A healthy diet provides antioxidants that gobble up free radicals that speed the aging process.  It also helps maintain a healthy weight which is important in preventing a host of diseases.

Stop Snoring –

Sleep apnea, a condition is which people stop breathing during sleep because tissues in your throat collapse blocking the airway, can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, and depression.

Take Resveratrol –

Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant found most prevalently in the skins of grapes. It provides the health benefits associated with red wine. Just like exercise, it slows telomere shortening. It is available in supplement form.

Manage Your Stress –

Excessive stress leads to the production of hormones in the body that are detrimental to long term health. High stress levels delays healing, increases fat deposition and suppresses the immune system.

Keep Your Insulin Levels In Check –

Insulin is a hormone in the body that is secreted in response to carbohydrate consumption.  An excessive level, due to excessive carbohydrate and sugar intake, is associated with increased cellular aging.  Keep grains and sugar to a low level in your diet.

Get Out in the Sun –

Being in the sun not only improves mood, but it produces vitamin D.  Vitamin D affects up to 10% of your genes and allows them to function optimally.  Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the rate of many types of cancer.

Get Your Fats –

Eating a diet high in healthy fats, like omega-3, is essential for heart and brain health.  Good sources include fish and nuts.  To get optimal benefit, however, most people will likely have to supplement with fish oil.

Control Your Blood Pressure –

High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and a host of other diseases.  Controlling it will allow you to live longer.  It is best to control it by losing weight and exercising.

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Are we getting enough Vitamin D?

The Institute or Medicine (IOM) says we are.  They say we might even be getting too much.  Their recent report released on November 30th states that most Americans are getting enough vitamin D from their diet and supplementation is unnecessary.  In fact their conclusion to the report states “the committee emphasizes that, with a few exceptions, all North Americans are receiving enough calcium and vitamin D.”  I couldn’t disagree more.

The IOM examined over 1,000 studies and reports to make their conclusions that people need no more than 600IU of vitamin D per day.  They concluded that people are getting enough vitamin D.  However, this blanket statement only applies to one health factor – bone health.

It is my fear that people will see the headlines on the news and assume they are getting enough vitamin D.  The headlines inevitably will read “Americans Getting Enough Vitamin D.”  They will not tell people this refers only to bone health.  Vitamin D does so much more than protect your bones.

The IOM says the evidence, at this point, is insufficient to say that vitamin D has a protective benefit in any other area of health.  Research, however, has shown it improves cancer rates, reduces the incidence of MS, decreases cardiovascular disease rates and many more.

So why the conflict?

Part of the problem is that the IOM based it’s conclusions on what it takes to maintain bone health and since 2000 the research for vitamin D has exploded.  Many studies, published in some of the world’s most respected peer-reviewed journals, have concluded in direct conflict with what the IOM has said.

The IOM has said the studies that were done that drew conclusions on vitamin D’s other health benefits were either poorly designed or were insufficient to conclude vitamin D is good for anything but bone health.  These studies that they dismissed were good enough to be published in many of the best journals in the world.  I guess the IOM does not agree.

Below is a graph of the disease reduction rates by serum levels of vitamin D.  As serum levels rise, the rates of many diseases are reduced.  For example, breast cancer levels are reduced by 30% when vitamin D levels are at 34ng/ml or higher.  The X’s represent reasonable extrapolations based on the research but is beyond existing data.

 

Vitamin D reduces the rates of all of these diseases. It is NOT just for bone health as the IOM has concluded. The references are listed above as well.

The IOM report readily admits that people do not get enough vitamin D by saying:

“While the average total intake of vitamin D is below the median requirement, national surveys show that average blood levels of vitamin D are above the 20 nanograms per milliliter that the IOM committee found to be the level that is needed for good bone health for practically all individuals.”

If you look at the graph above you will see that the research is consistent with that statement.  At 20 ng/ml of serum vitamin D 99% of cases of rickets is prevented.  This is a disease of soft bones in children.  But what about all of the other wonderful, researched benefits of vitamin D? The IOM has seemingly missed the boat.

The graph above would suggest that a level of 60 ng/ml is optimal to protect a person from the diseases listed.  This is a serum level that cannot be obtained by current diets.  A person must supplement to reach this level and the IOM’s recommendation of 600IUs per day obtained from diet is exceptionally low.

I recently tested a patient who was under my care and was taking 4,000IUs per day as I had recommended.  Her serum vitamin D level came back at 18ng/ml.  By any current laboratory’s standard this patient was deficient in vitamin D.  And that’s after taking 4,000IUs per day for 2 months!  How can the IOM say 600IUs is enough for everyone.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The IOM’s own report concluded that the average intake is below the median requirement but that blood levels were above the 20ng/ml required for healthy bones according to the quote above in gray.  How could that be possible?  Perhaps the 20ng/ml of serum vitamin D is too low as well.  This would make much more sense.  Instead of making that conclusion the IOM simply concluded that people must somehow be getting enough vitamin D.

I couldn’t disagree more.

The IOM has taken an exceptionally conservative stance on this.  Their stance on this is equivalent to saying that people shouldn’t exercise more than 10 minutes a day because any more than that might lead injury.

I recommend my patients get at least 2,000IUs per day of vitamin D.  I myself take 8,000IUs per day.  The benefits of taking vitamin D far outweigh any perceived “risks” associated with it.  Vitamin D is very safe and I hope this report doesn’t persuade any physicians into thinking it’s not.

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Avoiding the Common Cold and Flu

It’s that time of year again.  Cold and flu season is upon us.  Fortunately there are things that can be done to avoid getting the cold and flu outside of getting that nasty flu shot.

It all starts with diet

Perhaps the best things you can do is eat a healthy diet.  A diet filled with high quality protein, healthy fats and brightly colored vegetables and fruits is a great way to keep your immune system functioning at its best.  Remember, your immune system depends on what you put into your body for fuel.  Junk in = junk out!

Control stress

In times of stress the body goes into fight or flight mode.  This means it is trying to survive and survive right now. When you are under stress your body views the immune system as unimportant.  Because your body is trying to survive in the short term it begins to shift energy away from long term systems like the immune system.  Your body is not concerned with that cold you might get two weeks from now if it doesn’t think it will survive today or tomorrow.  Do your best to manage your stress so that your immune system can stay as potent as possible.

Exercise

You will see this over and over again in my posts.  Exercise is good for everything!  Exercising stimulates immune function in our bodies by facilitating immune cells that go after viruses.  Plus, there are many other benefits to exercise.  Its importance cannot be over stated.  There is one caveat to this; do not over exercise.  This will shift your body into that fight or flight scenario discussed above and will have the opposite effect your are desiring.  Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise 3-4 times per week is adequate.

Supplements

Listed below are helpful immune boosting supplements that you can use to ward off the cold or flu this season.  You should always buy the highest quality supplements that you can.  All supplements are not created equal! The company that I like to use is a company called Metagenics. They have superior quality control and prove their formulations through research.  Their products are safe and effective.

Vitamin D

D3 1000 is vitamin D in a highly absorbable form.  Vitamin D is known to boost immune function and it has been shown that people who have the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood are at the highest risk of illness.  I recommend 2,000-4,oooIU per day.  D3 1000 is 1,000IU per tablet.  You may order this supplement from Metagenics though my online store here. Simply register and begin shopping!

ImmuCore

ImmuCore is designed to enhance the  activities of macrophages, natural killer cells, and T cell subsets.  These cells are the cells in your immune system that will fight the fight!  It contains vitamin C, zinc, selenium and a proprietary blend of immune boosting herbs.  Click here to purchase.

Kaprex AI

Kaprex AI contains a small amount of vitamin D as well as zinc and selenium.  Its major ingredient is a complex derived from hops (yes, those hops) that has been shown to have hugely beneficial effects on the immune system and inflammation.  Click here to purchase.

How To Purchase

You may purchase these supplements many places online.  You do not have to buy them from me but you may.  If you would like to here is how to order them.

You may click one of the links in the above paragraphs at the end of each description or you may click the link to our online store under our blog roll on the right hand side of your screen.  Once you’re there register your name and begin shopping.  They will be shipped straight to you, usually arriving in 1-2 business days.

If you have any questions please let us know!

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