Vitamin D, Diabetes & Life

Sunday, June 22, 2014

You should be adding Vitamin D to your list of health goals stat.  It turns out tons of us are deficient and it matters a lot.

1. I had no idea I could be deficient.
  • I don't think I ever had a doctor check me out for Vitamin D deficiency until I moved to Houston and started seeing Dr. Mucha, who is the best doctor I've ever seen.  I didn't really believe I could have a deficiency at first.  In theory, you should get enough Vitamin D by spending ten minutes in the sun without sunscreen at midday in the summer.  During the winter, you apparently have to live south of Atlanta to have the opportunity to make Vitamin D, but I live in Houston.  Usually, I'm holed up in my office at midday, but I am outside running for about an hour at a time several days a week.
2. A surprising percentage of Americans are vitamin D deficient.
  • Surprisingly, despite the fact that I am outside a lot for a working young professional, I turned out to be deficient.  New research suggests that Vitamin D deficiency is common in type-one diabetics.   And up to 75% of Americans may be Vitamin D deficient, although I've also seen studies estimating the rate of deficiency around 40%.  Either way, with so many diabetics being deficient and so many Americans being deficient, maybe it shouldn't have been that surprising that I am.  I just hadn't heard much about the research.
3. Vitamin D deficiency is really bad.
  • Why should we care?  I feel like I'm seeing more and more studies and reports coming out all the time about the effects of low Vitamin D levels.  It's been linked to developing type-two diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and cancer.  I mean, it's been really linked.  Doctors have even said that correcting the Vitamin D deficiency might be a good route to prevent mortality from cardiovascular disease.  Most of this research seems to be pretty recent, 2014 recent, so your doctor may or may not be up on it.  My suggestion is that you ask to be screened.
4. Thoughts on fixing the deficiency.
  • Ditch the treadmill and get your butt outside.  At least some of the time.  10-15 minutes outside midday or a little longer at another point in the day should give you enough.
  • Buy Vitamin D enriched milk.  
  • Buy Vitamin D fortified orange juice.
  • Eat fatty fish.
  • Eat certain mushrooms.  Check the label, some of them have some good Vitamin D.
  • Certain cereals are fortified.
  • Supplements.  Unfortunately, it isn't clear that simply taking a Vitamin D supplement will reduce all of your various risks.  Vitamin D has been called a good barometer of overall health, but it isn't clear whether or not healthy individuals produce more Vitamin D or whether or not Vitamin D actually increases your health.  I'm not a big supplement person.  In fact, this is the only one that I take.  But, since it isn't harmful (as long as you don't overdose), research keeps suggesting it's important, and I know that I was deficient, I'm taking the supplement.
**I think this is the best comprehensive resource for Vitamin D questions, the Harvard School of Public Health.  It's easy to understand and comprehensive.

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