We have been lucky this January to have so many sunny days, but are we still getting enough vitamin D? I know that most days I am working inside and only see the sun when I am taking care of my chickens in the morning. If we don’t get enough sun and our vitamin D levels go down, we can start suffering from the winter grumpies, or seasonal affective disorder, as it is technically known.
I often encourage my patients to take a low dose of vitamin D during the winter or all year long, especially if they are taking a calcium supplement. I am not necessarily a fan of the higher doses such as 5000 IU once a day, since too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that regulates calcium metabolism, and as with hormone replacement therapy, there is a normal range for our bodies. Unless someone is deficient, the higher doses might actually reduce some of the vitamin D benefits. Additionally, sometimes we need to dig deeper. If someone is vitamin D deficient, it can be due to excessive inflammation in the body, and this may need to be addressed more than the vitamin D levels
Adequate vitamin D is associated with many health benefits including stronger bones, lower rates of influenza, reduced blood pressure, and reduced breast and colon cancer risk, but some of the benefits go away if people take too much. Therefore, I have been encouraging people who don’t know their vitamin D levels to stick with doses around 1000 IU. One study demonstrated that just 800 IU a day slightly reduced mortality due to any cause in elderly people, mainly women.
So if you are dealing with the wintertime blues, considering adding a little vitamin D to your routine, but remember don’t overdo it.
And get some sun when you can!
Vitamin D has received a lot of interest in the last few years as an essential nutrient to possibly help prevent serious health issues. Not as much thought has been given to its helper Vitamin K, but I think this is going to change. Several of the conditions that are thought to be associated with vitamin D deficiency, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, as also linked with vitamin K deficit.
Like vitamin D, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that occurs in several forms. The most commonly known form is vitamin K1, which is necessary for proper blood clotting. Vitamin K2 is the form that is gaining interest right now for its importance in bone and heart health. Sources of vitamin K2 are natto (fermented soybeans), tempeh, grass fed butter and beef, eggs, cheese, and possibly sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables. It is also sold as a dietary supplement under the name MK-7, which stands for menaquinone-7 the scientific name for vitamin K2.
Most of what vitamin K does in the body is help different protein handle calcium, but it is through the appropriate use of calcium that vitamin K has so many benefits.
Vitamin K helps certain proteins hold on to calcium. For instance in bone formation, a protein called osteocalcin needs vitamin K to be able to deposit calcium in the bones. This is why the combination of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K was superior for helping improve bone density than was calcium and vitamin D alone in a 2012 study.
Some recent studies have linked calcium intake to increased hardening of the arteries. My hypothesis is that if we don’t have adequate vitamin K2, taking calcium may be an issue for heart health. Vitamin K2 is an essential part of a protein in our artery walls that helps prevent calcium from being deposited in the arteries. Indeed, a few studies have demonstrated that higher vitamin K2 intake is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. So I always tell my patients if they take calcium, make sure they also have adequate levels of vitamin D and vitamin K2 to help ensure the calcium is going to the bones where we want it and not to the arteries.
Posted in Health
Tagged bone density, bone health, calcium, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular health, heart disease, MK-7, osteoporosis, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin K2
There have been a few studies in recent years that have gotten a lot of press for supposedly showing that certain common supplements are harming people’s health. While it is indeed possible that we can take too much of a good thing and cause a health problem, most of these studies have been flawed or revealed flaws in how we use supplements. For instance, some studies on calcium have shown it to be correlated with increased rates of heart disease. This makes some sense because in some forms arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, calcium is part of the problem. But if we are taking calcium appropriately we shouldn’t be contributing to this issue. I always make sure that people taking calcium have adequate levels of vitamin D and K. Vitamin D is necessary for adequate calcium absorption and utilization. Vitamin K places two important roles with calcium. It works to help get calcium into our bones, while also being an important component of a protein that keep calcium from being deposited in our blood vessels. Another important consideration is the calcium to magnesium ratio. If someone is taking calcium without paying attention to their magnesium intake, they might become magnesium deficient, which could contribute to heart disease. Finally, I always have my patients take their calcium with a meal because calcium taken away from meals might play a role in kidney stone formation. When calcium is taken with meals, it might help prevent a common type of kidney stones.
Nutrients work together to keep our bodies functioning properly. When we use wise combinations and appropriate doses, supplements are unlikely to harm us. Another option is to improve our calcium intake from our diet. World’s Healthiest Foods has a fabulous website that includes charts of the foods highest in certain nutrients like calcium.