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Doctor: Don't throw out that vitamin D just yet

Wednesday December 15, 2010

Mlive.com - Dr. Mark Gostine urges people living in West Michigan not to be hasty in giving vitamin D supplements the heave-ho following a newly issued government study.

“Here in West Michigan, (people) are in way more danger of deficiency than of sufficiency,” said Gostine, president and founder of Michigan Pain Consultants in Grand Rapids.

Gostine, who has studied vitamin D deficiencies, said the study doesn’t factor in regional differences. Those with health challenges living in less sunny areas, particularly West Michigan, are especially vulnerable, he said.

“Over the last six years, I’ve drawn over 1,000 vitamin D levels, and the vast majority are below normal,” he said.

The U.S. and Canadian-sponsored study, by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, asserts most North Americans don’t need to boost their calcium and vitamin D levels — and that too much of the nutrients may be harmful. Most people, the study said, get plenty of vitamin D from the sun and do not need extra supplements to keep their bones strong.

The report adds that more vitamin D isn’t necessarily better, and using super-high levels of the supplement could be risky. Among the risks: Too much calcium from dietary supplements can cause kidney stones, while excessive vitamin D can damage the kidneys and heart.

The study also cast doubts over some widely touted health claims, namely that vitamin D can ward off heart disease, hypertension, high blood sugar, diabetes and LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

The report culled nearly 1,000 published studies as well as testimony from scientists and stakeholders.

Gostine said the payoff of taking adequate level of vitamin D includes reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
People most susceptible to calcium and vitamin D deficiency include those with cancer, the elderly and overweight, diabetics, pregnant women and fibromyalgia patients, Gostine said.

He added vitamin D could predict children’s health: Youngsters with a vitamin D insufficiency have higher rates of obesity.

Moreover, those with the lowest vitamin D levels were more likely to have higher blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and low blood levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
The Institute of Medicine report and Gostine agree calcium and vitamin D promote skeletal growth and help avoid poor bone health.

“The IOM is right when it says vitamin D deficiency will not correct diseases,” Gostine said. “However, they don’t go far enough. In order to treat diseases like diabetes, you need a lot of lifestyle management, diet management and exercise, and you will need vitamin D. It will be harder (for patients) to control diabetes if we let them remain vitamin D deficient.”