The vitamin D dilemmas
Somehow vitamin D has become the hottest, trendiest, newest magic bullet without the media taking much notice of it. It's tricky because it's one of the few vitamins you can't get enough of by just eating the right foods. It's in certain fish, and in fortified dairy products and cereals, which if you feel you should get your vitamins naturally, like I do, doesn't count.
Scientists have long known that we need vitamin D to maintain bone health and metabolize calcium; but recent research suggests it may also help both men and women in reducing the risk of certain kinds of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other medical conditions.
That's what I mean by a magic bullet.
The first dilemma is that most people get vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, and we're all supposed to be wearing sunscreen these days.
The second dilemma, a personal one, is that I don't like taking supplements, especially mega-doses of vitamins. Who's funding that research anyway? ...
I remember when Linus Pauling announced that large amounts of vitamin C would cure the common cold and just about everything else. People no longer relied on their daily glass of orange juice to get enough. I remember the backlash as nothing was ever proven; and someone saying, "Americans have the most expensive urine in the world."
Then it was the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E, which turned out to have toxic effects in large doses.
And every woman's gynecologist telling her that chewing Tums was the best way to get the calcium she needed -- until it turned out that the stomach acid the Tums controlled was actually needed to absorb the calcium.
So I wasn't happy when my doctor got the lab results back after a routine annual physical and told me my vitamin D levels were unacceptably low; and I would need to take 1000 IU twice a day for a month to catch up and then 1000 IU daily "forever."
The one difference I can see is that in those other examples, people just took the vitamins. They hadn't been tested and found to have low blood levels.
Talking to a few friends, I found out their vitamin D levels had also tested below acceptable. I checked out our health blog, Picture of Health, which reported that 7 in 10 children had unacceptably low levels of vitamin D.
I wonder how they decide what the parameters should be if so many people are deficient. I did a little internet research, but it didn't answer all my questions.
Anyway, I guess I'll be taking vitamin D until the next round of research. I don't see myself eating sockeye salmon every night, which is what it would take to get close to my doctor's recommendation.(Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)