Taking Vitamin D3 supplements for more than 3 years linked to lower mortality

We’ve heard a lot about Vitamin D in the past few years. There have been studies linking low Vitamin D levels to a host of health issues, from heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, to higher probability of developing the flu, especially during the winter season, when you get less exposure to the sunshine that allows the body to produce its own supply of the vitamin.

Now here’s an interesting meta-analysis (=review of previously published research) that looks at the connection between long-term use of Vitamin D3 supplements (“long-term” defined, in this case, as more than three years). Reviewing data from 42 earlier trials, this investigation found that those who supplemented with Vitamin D for longer than three years had a significant reduction in mortality. Specifically, this research found that the following groups showed a lower risk of death when supplementing with Vitamin D over a period longer than three years: women, people under the age of 80, those taking a daily dose of 800IU or less of Vitamin D, and those participants with vitamin D insufficiency (defined as a baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D level less than 50 nmol/L).

Here’s the conclusion reached by the researchers:

The data suggest that supplementation of vitamin D is effective in preventing overall mortality in a long-term treatment, whereas it is not significantly effective in a treatment duration shorter than 3 years. Future studies are needed to identify the efficacy of vitamin D on specific mortality, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality in a long-term treatment duration.

Our comment: We’re not surprised that supplementing over a period of years proves, in this review, to be more beneficial than briefer periods of supplementing. Vitamin D, like many supplements, shouldn’t be seen as treatment for an acute condition. It doesn’t act like an antibiotic, which may clear up an infection with a couple weeks of treatment. Instead, think of the body as having a long-term, continual need for Vitamin D; and note as well that seasonal change, or a particular health status (for example, being HIV+), may lead to deficiency and thus increase your need for supplementing. We were somewhat surprised to see that a significantly lowered risk of mortality was found even with a moderate rate of supplementation (800 IU daily dose). On this Blog you can read about other research that links decreased risk of flu, for example, with a daily Vitamin D dose of 2000IU. At any rate, there are no known “adverse events” at either of these doses of the vitamin, so not to worry, whether you’re following the lower or a higher recommendation.

See the NYBC catalog for Vitamin D3 offerings:

http://nybcsecure.org/index.php?cPath=25

Reference:
Zheng Y, et al. Meta-analysis of long-term vitamin D supplementation on overall mortality. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 3;8(12):e82109. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082109.

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Beta Glucans to thwart colds?

Purely anecdotally, I’ve been using beta glucan to nip colds in the bud for years. If I can catch it, just at the onset of that first tickle, one or two do the trick. But if I forget or miss it and something’s trying to settle in, I wind up taking several through the day, along with increasing my dose of vitamin C from the usual 4 grams/day to about 6-8 grams (staying home especially if I’m worried about reaching bowel tolerance).

Some research is beginning to support these anecdotes of mine and several NYBC members. One small (industry) study showed reduced number of symptoms. Another study among 182 marathoners who may be more prone to colds due to suppressed mucosal immunity after a run, showed those using the beta glucans experienced “a 37% reduction in the number of cold/flu symptom days postmarathon compared to placebo (p = .026).” In a second study by the same researchers, they observed that beta glucan use was associated with “a 32% increase in salivary IgA (p = .048) at 2 hr after exercise compared to placebo.” That might provide a partial understanding of how these compounds work to stimulate a key feature of immunity.

Others have found that higher doses (8 g/day) may help lower LDL. Clearly, more studies can help us to understand the benefits, limitations and contraindications or side effects of this intriguing polysaccharides. Would that research were run based on science and the actual needs of medicine instead of the anti-science distortions of greed!

See nybuyersclub entry on Beta Glucan

Vitamin D3 and Flu Prevention

There has been rising interest in the past few years about Vitamin D’s potential for preventing/controlling flu and other respiratory illnesses.
One notable advocate for Vitamin D as a preventative against flu is Dr. John Cannell, lead author of a 2008 review article in the journal Virology. Cannell and his co-authors build on a decades-old insight from a British researcher, Hope-Simpson, who speculated that influenza was seasonal because of a co-factor related to sun exposure. The co-factor, this article asserts, is Vitamin D and its positive effects on immunity.

The second paragraph quoted below (from the same 2008 article in Virology) reports rather dramatic evidence that African-Americans, who are especially prone to Vitamin D deficiency, might very substantially decrease their susceptibility to colds and flu by supplementing with 2000IU daily during winter months.

Vitamin D, innate immunity, and influenza

Hope-Simpson’s model theorized that an unidentified “seasonal stimulus,” inextricably bound to solar radiation, substantially controlled the seasonality of influenza. Recent evidence suggests the “seasonal stimulus” may be seasonal impairments of the antimicrobial peptide (AMPs) systems crucial to innate immunity, impairments caused by dramatic seasonal fluctuations in 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D] levels. The evidence that vitamin D has profound effects on innate immunity is rapidly growing.

In fact, Aloia and Li-Ng presented evidence of a dramatic vitamin D preventative effect from a randomized controlled trial (RCT). In a post-hoc analysis of the side effect questions of their original three-year RCT, they discovered 104 post-menopausal African American women given vitamin D were three times less likely to report cold and flu symptoms than 104 placebo controls. A low dose (800 IU/day) not only reduced reported incidence, it abolished the seasonality of reported colds and flu. A higher dose (2000 IU/day), given during the last year of their trial, virtually eradicated all reports of colds or flu. Recent discoveries about vitamin D’s mechanism of action in combating infections led Science News to suggest that vitamin D is the “antibiotic vitamin” due primarily to its robust effects on innate immunity.

References:

Cannell, John J, Michael Zasloff, Cedric F Garland, Robert Scragg and Edward Giovannucci. On the epidemiology of influenza. Virology Journal 2008, 5:29. We accessed this 11/10/2009 at http://www.virologyj.com/content/5/1/29.

Aloia J F, Li-Ng M: Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect 2007; 135: 1095–1096.

See the NYBC entry Vitamin D3 2500IU for additional information. This format of D3 is a convenient way to supplement at approximately the levels discussed by Cannell and others. (NYBC also stocks D3 1000IU and D3 400IU formats.)

Recommendations from the Vitamin D Council

The Vitamin D Council is a California non-profit that promotes education about the health benefits of Vitamin D, and advocates for wider use of supplementation, at a much higher dose than the current RDA, to ward off a variety of diseases, including several types of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Here are some highlights from the Council’s home page, as accessed by us 10/22/2009:

Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

Vitamin D’s influence on key biological functions vital to one’s health and well-being mandates that vitamin D no longer be ignored by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health.

Sunshine and Your Health

If well adults and adolescents regularly avoid sunlight exposure, research indicates a necessity to supplement with at least 5,000 units (IU) of vitamin D daily. To obtain this amount from milk one would need to consume 50 glasses. With a multivitamin more than 10 tablets would be necessary. Neither is advisable.

The skin produces approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response 20–30 minutes summer sun exposure—50 times more than the US government’s recommendation of 200 IU per day!

On this website, we also noted with interest a letter from a Wisconsin doctor/long-term care facility manager on the apparent protective value of Vitamin D during a spike in the state’s swine flu rate in June 2009. The doctor had mandated Vitamin D supplementation for the long-term care facility’s residents, whereas staff at the facility were under no such requirement. During the June swine flu peak, less than 1% of the facility residents developed swine flu, while at least 7% of the staff did–a significant variation in outcomes.

We’ll stay tuned to the Vitamin D Council’s website, which seems to us a useful clearinghouse of information on a supplement that holds a great deal of promise, if we’re to judge by the flood of positive new research results coming out in just the past few years. On the practical side, we also note that Vitamin D supplementation is inexpensive; that blood levels of the vitamin are easily monitored; and that overdose is rare (though we certainly recommend checking with your doctor if you plan to supplement at the levels advocated by the Vitamin D Council).

SEE ALSO THE NYBC ENTRY:

D3 – 2500IU (This format provides a convenient way to supplement for those wishing to follow the recommendations of the Vitamin D Council; other strengths are also available at NYBC.)

What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet for Cold and Flu Season?

What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet for Cold and Flu Season?

As the cold and flu season approaches, don’t forget the supplements! Here are some good choices for preventing colds and flus, or for lessening symptoms:

Vitamin D. According to some recent thinking, the “cold and flu season” may actually be the “Vitamin D deficiency season.” As the days grow shorter, people get less sunshine, leading to a decline in the body’s levels of this vitamin, which is essential to good health in many more ways than we used to think. Supplementing with Vitamin D during the winter may therefore be one of the most effective ways to prevent colds and flu. Many researchers who’ve studied Vitamin D now recommend at least 1000 IU/day, but those with a known deficiency may be advised to supplement at even higher levels. Our #1 recommendation for cold and flu season! See NYBC’s D-3 2500IU or D3 1000IU or D3 400IU.

Cold Away. This Health Concerns blend of Chinese herbs is designed to “clear external heat and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.” A key component of this formula is the herb Andrographis, which has been studied in several US trials in the last decade, and was found to significantly decrease cold symptoms and the duration of a cold. See NYBC’s Cold Away.

Vitamin C. Many good studies have shown a decrease in cold symptom duration, but no benefit for prevention. According to a guide to natural products published by the American Pharmacists’ Association in 2006, taking between 1 and 3 grams of Vitamin C per day may decrease cold symptoms (sore throat, fatigue, runny nose) by 1 – 1 ½ days. See NYBC’s C1000 – Ascorbic Acid with Olea Fruit Extract, or C -Buffered Vitamin C (easier on the stomach), or Super C Powder.

NAC (PharmaNAC). N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supports respiratory and immune system function. It has been studied extensively for chronic bronchitis. NAC is also the antidote for acetaminophen poisoning, now the leading cause of liver disease in the USA. (Acetaminophen’s best-known tradename is Tylenol, but it’s also found in many other meds, and so it’s become all too easy to overdose. We like PharmaNAC for its quality packaging, wildberry flavor & fizz! See NYBC’s PharmaNAC.

Botanicals. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Astragalus is used for chronic respiratory infections, for colds and flu (both prevention and treatment) and for stress and fatigue. (This herb is a favorite of integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil.) An elderberry extract and American ginseng are two other botanicals that have been studied for cold and flu symptoms in recent North American research, with some promising results. The popular Echinacea, however, has generally disappointed in cold prevention studies.

Advocating for Vitamin D: higher dosages as a preventive measure with wide-ranging health benefits, from reduction of cancer risk to prevention of colds and flus

We took a look recently at the website of the Vitamin D Council, a nonprofit educational organization that advocates for wider use of this supplement, and suggests that the long-accepted dosage recommendations are too low. This is a widely discussed viewpoint, which comes following a flood of interesting research on Vitamin D in the last decade, including a great deal sponsored by the federal government. Here’s the link: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

Some of the website’s main points:

–Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many varieties of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and more.

–A recent federally-funded study found that supplementing with 1100 IU Vitamin D3 plus calcium daily yielded a substantial decrease in cancer rates among post-menopausal women. This daily dosage of D is significantly higher than the 400 IUs traditionally recommended.

–The “flu season” may actually be a “Vitamin D deficiency season,” since a decrease in sun exposure leads to a fall in the body’s Vitamin D levels. Thus one of the most effective preventives for colds and flu may be increasing Vitamin D supplementation during the winter.

–There may be significant benefit to doses of D as high as 5000 IUs daily, especially for those who have a marked deficiency. (This is perhaps one of the more controversial positions endorsed by this website.)

For more, see the NYBC entry:

Vitamin D3

Note the NYBC also stocks Jarrow’s Bone Up, a supplement that conveniently provides dosages of both D3 (1000 IU) and Calcium (1000mg) closely reflecting those used in the federally-funded study that showed a substantial reduction in cancer rates.