Research on vitamin D effects dives deeper

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As we head down the vitamin alphabet in columns about outward signs of nutritional deficiencies, this week we examine vitamin D.

And as with vitamins A, B, and C, I’ve posted photos of visible signs of deficiencies in these nutrients on my website at drftrapani.com.

When I studied nutrition in college many years ago, vitamin D was mainly known to be important in the hardening of bone. With children, vitamin D deficiency is very obvious in the display of a disease called rickets which is seen as and commonly referred to as “bowed legs” and “knocked knees.”

Although this was fairly common in children years ago, today it is seldom seen in developed countries because of the practice of adding this nutrient to milk. I know of no deficiency signs for this nutrient except rickets. But since this nutrient is so very important and in light of recent studies, it bears more discussion.

Studies have found that the effects of vitamin D go much deeper than previously thought. The most startling discovery was to find that vitamin D influences more than 200 genes. An important source for this information comes from the work of a man named Andreas Heger and Associates of the Functional Genomics Unit at Britain’s Oxford University, who led these studies.

This information is a breakthrough because we now understand that the effects of nutrition can go much deeper than we thought. This evidence suggests that nutritional deficiencies of vitamin D may increase susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, colorectal disease, Crohn’s disease, cancers such as leukemia, and even dementia.

This scientific breakthrough was further confirmed by Sreeram Ramagopalan, of the Wellcome Trust Center for Human Genetics, also at Oxford University.

He said results, published in the Journal Genome Research, showed “just how important vitamin D is to humans, by the wide variety of biological pathways that vitamin D plays a role in.”

What I’m saying here is that it seems that the genesis of many diseases actually goes back to our genes and that our genes must themselves be properly nourished.

I have studied under some very progressive teachers who said years ago that someday science will discover that 99 percent of all diseases will be found to be related to nutrition. We are coming ever closer to finding out that prediction may indeed be correct.

There is some disagreement as to what the daily dose of vitamin D should be. When recommending doses, scientists have disputed the amount of vitamin D ranging from 400 international units (IU) to several thousand per day.

Personally and in my practice, my recommended dosage has been — and unless proven otherwise — will remain 400 IU of only the natural form for several reasons. First, we should suspect that the saying “If a little is good, a lot must be better” does not always hold true. And secondly, I have found that “balance” can be very important. And overdosing may indeed upset nutritional balances.

The type of vitamin D to take can be very important.

Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are the common varieties available. D2 is called ergocalciferol; D3 is known as cholecalciferol. D2 is the synthetic form while D3 is the “natural” form. I won’t go into more detail than to say I always prefer the “natural” sources and that D3 has also been found to be more effective.

One of the best sources of natural vitamin D3 is fish liver oil, which also is a source of vitamins A. A typical capsule might contain 10,000 IU of vitamin A with 400 IU of vitamin D.

Many questions still remain. A most important one is: What effect does vitamin D deficiency have on a fetus before birth? Does a parental, prenatal deficiency set the stage for the development previously mentioned diseases later in the life?

And does it really make a difference which form of the vitamin is used and what effect if any does it have if it is overdosed?

Hopefully these questions will soon be answered.

Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes 41 years of practice plus doing investigative reporting and fitness programs for broadcast media in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.

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