Can Supplements Prevent Sunburn?

Summer is here and along with summer comes sunburns, that we all hate.  We’ve been told for years to slather on the sunscreen, but still a long day at the beach on on the lake you still end up pink.  So wouldn’t it be nice if you could just pop a few pill and skip the sunburn?

Lets talk for a minute about what makes up the sun, or at least the part that causes damage and pain. Those are the ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two types UVA and UVB:

  • UVA – These are the UV rays which cause damage to the skin. Think of UVA as UV-Aging. These cause can lead to cancer, dried out leathery skin, etc. These don’t cause the burn though.
  • UVB – These are the UV rays which cause burning, so think of UVB as UV-Burning. UVB rays also cause the conversion of cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D.

Ok, so now a bit about sunscreen. Many sunscreens just block the UVB rays, so they prevent the burning but also block the production of vitamin D, but they don’t block the UVA rays, so the rays which can damage the cells and possibly cause skin cancer get right in.  So when you shop for a sunscreen make sure it is a full spectrum sunscreen that blocks both the UVA and UVB rays.

OK, so about that magic pill that prevents sunburn.  Sadly there isn’t a pill that will totally prevent sunburn, but there are a number of vitamins that have been shown to lessen the burning. So you may still burn, but not as bad. These are:

  • Beta Caroteen – Beta Caroteen is found in high concentrations in carrots – that is what gives carrots their orange color. Many supplements will also use beta carotene as their source of vitamin A.  Your body can break down beta carotene to make vitamin A as it needs it without the risk of too much vitamin A. This, like all those that follow isn’t a morning after pill. It takes 10 to 12 weeks of daily supplementation to reduce the redness and burning.
  • Lutein and Lycopene are carotenoids that also show some protection. Lutein especially for the eyes. (Make sure your sunglasses block UV rays, not all do.)
  • Astaxanthin – This is another carotenoid that is found in krill and salmon giving them their red color. (Note only wild caught salmon have high levels of this. Farm raised salmon (often called Atlantic or Norwegian salmon) are fed feeds which don’t contain astaxanthin, so they add red dye to the salmon’s feed to make the flesh red. Yech.  This works quicker, within a week or two of daily consumption (salmon or astaxanthin supplements)
  • Coco flavanols – Yep, chocolate has been shown to reduce redness from UV exposure in women, though I bet it would work for men too. Unflortunaely eating a handful of Hershey Kisses won’t work (well maybe a bag full) but the chocolate you reach for has much more fat, sugar, and milk that actual chocolate. Instead reach for a 90-100% dark chocolate. My favorite is the Lindt 99% chocolate (hard to find in the US, but you can find the 90 and 95%)
  • Vitamin C and vitamin E – when taken together in high doses daily. One study found that 2,000 mg of vitamin C and 1,000 IU of vitamin E (as d-alpha-tocopherol – the natural form) taken daily for 8 days modestly reduced redness caused by UV light – Equivalent to SPF 2. Note that these higher doses can cause problems for some people. A top rated multi vitamin has 1,300mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E and this is well tolerated by most people. So take that daily for a base, then jump up to the higher levels before you head to Bali – just make sure you don’t have any side effects (common is diarrhea from vitamin C)
  • Pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®, Flavangenol®) has been found in clinical studies to significantly increase the amount of simulated UV-radiation required to cause redness and skin damage, as well as reduce measures of skin damage caused by UV exposure. It has also been found to decrease the color of age spots in healthy young women.

Some supplements like St John’s Wort and dong quai (found in some menopause supplements) can increase photosensitivity, so avoided these if you are going out in the sun.

The big fear is skin cancer. Maintaining optimal  levels of vitamin D and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancers.   This leads to the vitamin D paradox – You need sun to naturally produce vitamin D and vitamin D has been shown to reduce the incidence of many types of cancer, including skin cancers. (Here is an article about vitamin D and its role in skin cancer)  Applying a high SPF sunscreen before going in the sun blocks that production, so you lose that protection.  So go out for 20 minutes or so, then apply sunscreen.  The recommendations above may help lessen the redness and damage and help a bit when you forget to reapply sunscreen. If you’re in and out of the water all day, or sweating and wiping your face, you just forget or can’t keep reapplying sunscreen. Here is an article that explains how sunscreens work and SPF ratings.

So what do I do?  I take our USANA Essentials and Visonex daily.  These provide high levels of most of the vitamins and carotenoids above. I’m not one that tans easily and I run for an hour daily usually around noon plus all the other Colorado outdoor activities, skiing, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, etc. I live in Colorado so high altitude and lots of reflection from the snow in the winter and water in the summer. I rarely use sunscreen unless I’m out all day, then usually just one application around noon. I can’t remember the last sunburn I’ve had.

Enjoy the sun and the water this summer!


Doctors to stop screening for vitamin D levels

If you’ve been to the doctor in the last years your blood test most likely included a screen for Vitamin D levels. If you’re levels were low you probably were advised to supplement vitamin D to get your levels up.  Well recently MedPage Today, a daily newsletter to the medical community ran a headline article stating that routing vitamin D screening was unsupported except in high risk groups, which were post menopausal women. (at risk for osteoporosis)

Unless you’ve been on a deserted island (without WiFi) for the past decade you know there there has been hundreds of research papers published linking increased vitamin D levels to helping to prevent, or cure, everything from the common cold to cancer – and yes osteoporosis in post menopausal women.

So why would the medical community recommend doctors stop screening for vitamin D levels? It is probably a case of follow the money. The FDA is heavily supported and funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the FDA executives are retired pharmaceutical executives.  Pharmaceutical companies also help support medical schools and give MDs great incentives for prescribing their drugs.  So where is the link? If everyone had adequate levels of vitamin D from a very early age through life there would be far fewer cases of many degenerative diseases including cancer.  What that means to the pharmaceutical industry is that far fewer people would be needing their very expensive and very profitable drugs.

Yes there is a cost to doing the tests, but the cost of dozens of blood tests is far less expensive than one months worth of chemo treatment. Even look at the common cold and flu. What would the savings in lost man hours due to sick days from the cold and flu? Probably billions of dollars per year. Vitamin D supplements are also very inexpensive. So with the vast amount of research on the benefits of maintaining vitamin D levels above 50 ng/ml that potentially will cost the pharmaceutical and medical industry billions.

If you live in North America you will need to supplement with vitamin D as the sun isn’t strong enough for much of the year to stimulate natural production of vitamin D.

So in the name of maintaining stock prices, which needs profits, the pharmaceutical industry would rather have us ill and using their products vs. healthy.

Before you scream the evils of capitalism and profits, look at your retirement portfolio and your 401K. I’m sure you have many pharmaceutical stocks in your portfolio.  Do you want your portfolio to go up or down? Up of course, so you want the pharma companies to do all they can to increase sales, which this is an example of.  So do get your vitamin D tested, and invest in companies other than pharmaceutical companies.

High Vitamin D levels are associated with a reduced risk of premature death from all causes

 Vitamin D supplementation is known to benefit conditions associated with the skeletal system such as rickets, fractures and falls, as well as a range of diseases including multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, infections, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. Non-skeletal benefits of vitamin D supplementation are still currently being debated in many cases.

In a new meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (1), researchers analyzed the possible association between a higher blood level of vitamin D and a reduced risk of all- cause mortality. The review included 73 observational population studies that reported vitamin D serum levels and the cause of death among 849,412 men and women over a follow up period up to 29 years.

When comparing adults with the lowest one-third of vitamin D levels to those in the highest third, subjects had a 35% higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease or any cause over the follow-up period. Adults with the lowest levels also had a 30% greater risk of non-vascular, non-cancer death, and a 14% higher risk of death from cancer.

Evidence from these observational studies found significant inverse associations between serum vitamin D levels and risks of death from cardiovascular disease, lymphoma, upper digestive tract cancer, and respiratory diseases. In addition, when the form of vitamin D supplementation was taken into account, vitamin D3 significantly reduced all-cause mortality by 11%. Vitamin D2, on the other hand, did not appear to have any significant effect on mortality.

Researchers noted that further studies should be done to determine the optimal dose and duration of supplementation and to further confirm whether vitamin D3 affects the mortality risk differently than vitamin D2.

How you produce Vitamin D from Sunlight

First, it’s important to understand that vitamin D3 is an oil soluble steroid hormone. It’s formed when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun (or a safe tanning bed). When UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative in your skin into vitamin D3.

Not any sunlight will do though, it must be strong enough for the UVB rays to penetrate deep into the skin.  An easy way to gauge the intensity of the sun is make sure that it is higher than 45 degrees in the sky. If you don’t remember your high school geometry, just stand out in the sun and look at the length your shadow (or any other object) if your shadow is shorter than you are tall, then the sun is strong enough to produce vitamin D. If it is longer then you can stand naked in the snow all day and you won’t produce any vitamin D.

Some times of they year the sun may be at that angle only mid day, in the middle of summer though it may be high enough in the sky for hours.

If you’re on statin drugs to reduce cholesterol or proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec or Prevocid, than will also lower the amount of cholesterol available to be converted into vitamin D.

Now that you’ve made Vitamin D, don’t wash it down the drain

However, the vitamin D3 that is formed is on the surface of your skin does not immediately penetrate into your bloodstream. It actually needs to be absorbed from the surface of your skin into your bloodstream.

The critical question then is: how long does it take the vitamin D3 to penetrate your skin and reach your bloodstream?

If you’re thinking about an hour or two,  you’re wrong. Because new evidence shows it takes up to 48 hours before you absorb the majority of the vitamin D that was generated by exposing your skin to the sun!

Therefore, if you shower with soap, you will simply wash away much of the vitamin D3 your skin generated, and decrease the benefits of your sun exposure. So to optimize your vitamin D level, you need to delay washing your body with soap for about two full days after sun exposure.

Now not many people are not going to bathe for two full days.

However you really only need to use soap underneath your arms and your groin area. , so this is not a major hygiene issue. You’ll just want to avoid soaping up the larger areas of your body that were exposed to the sun.

Vitamin D Supplementation

For most people who work 9-5 indoors and especially in the winter the only other alternative to basking in the sun on a tropical island is to take vitamin D supplements. These are safe and inexpensive and reduce the dependance on sunlight and the avoidance of showers. Recommended amounts vary from a small amount up to 5,000 or 10,000 IU per day, but you need to have regular blood tests to monitor your blood vitamin D levels. You want at least 50 to 90 ng/ml

(1) Rajiv Chowdhury et al.  Vitamin D and risk of cause specific death: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort and randomised intervention studies. BMJ 2014;348:g1903 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g1903 (Published 1 April 2014).

Vitamin D and osteoporosis

bigstock-Vitamin-D-Written-In-The-Sand-38126068See the latest headlines that vitamin D supplementation doesn’t reduce hip fracture and osteoporosis risk? If you saw it, or herd it, just ignore it, otherwise you could suffer.  This is another example of researchers using selective criteria in a meta analysis to get the results they want. In this case they ignored the science of bone health and selected only one nutrient, vitamin-D, to study.

When they looked at vitamin D supplementation alone, there wasn’t much of reduction in osteoporosis. but when you look at vitamin D and Calcium together there was a 14% reduction. Had they looked at all the vitamins and minerals necessary for bone growth and remineralization, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, boron, and selenium, then there would have been a very positive result.  Vitamin D is necessary and must be present for calcium to be absorbed into the bone matrix, but calcium and the other vitamins and minerals listed must also be present. A deficiency in any listed above will hamper calcium absorption.

Many studies you see regarding various vitamins and minerals tend to look at just one vitamin or mineral to measure its impact and treat it like they are studying a drug. Vitamins, minerals, and trace elements all work together to support your bodies biological functions, they don’t work in isolation.

When you see mention of a meta analysis be especially wary. A meta analysis is not a new research study. In a meta analysis they look at multiple existing studies and attempt to draw a conclusion from those. In selecting studies to include in the meta analysis they have selection criteria, in this case studies involving vitamin D and osteoporosis.  What that did was exclude studies which looked at vitamin D and calcium, or vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, boron, and silicon. Had they found studies with the latter combination of nutrients the results would have been much different.

So why would a researcher not look at other studies? To answer that you usually have to look at who funded the study. Often pharmaceutical drug companies will fund such studies to discredit natural alternatives vs. their high profit drugs, and there have been studies showing that who funded the study has a very good likelihood that the researcher will find results favorable to who is paying the bill.  I couldn’t find the source of the funding for this study, but my guess they had an interest in promoting high cost drugs vs inexpensive supplements.

The Institute of Medicine recommends dietary intake for adults of 600-800 IU of vitamin D and 1000-1300 mg of calcium daily, and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies supplements containing combinations of certain nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D as useful in postmenopausal women who have low levels of these nutrients in their diets to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has an approved health claim for calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis-related fractures in the U.S. cost an estimated $14 billion in 2012. They also place tremendous financial, mental and physical burdens on the individual. A new economic report from Frost and Sullivan found that over $12 billion in cumulative osteoporosis-attributed cost savings is potentially realizable, between 2013 and 2020, if U.S. women over the age of 55 diagnosed with osteoporosis were to use calcium and vitamin D dietary supplements at what the report identified as preventive intake levels. The daily cost per person in the targeted population to supplement would be $.16—not ‘expensive’ compared to the costs one, or the overall system, would incur if appropriate levels of vitamin D were not met. Supplementation is smart prevention.


Want to reduce your risk of Melanoma? Then get out in the sun.

Get your sunshine Vitamin DWe’ve been told for years to not go out in the sun without being slathered with sunscreen, and to reapply it regularly. Sure this prevents a painful sunburn, but it also blocks your vitamin D production. More and more research is coming out showing the cancer preventive effects of vitamin D. Unfortunately our vitamin D levels have plummeted as we’ve been scared sunless.

Vitamin D affects your biological function by influencing nearly 3,000 of your genes through vitamin D receptors. In fact, vitamin D receptors are found throughout your body, which should come as no surprise, given we humans evolved in the sun.

A research study involving 10,000 individuals showed that correcting a vitamin D deficiency can cut your risk of dying in half. Sun exposure also increases nitric oxide production which is great for  lowering blood pressure and increasing heart health and the benefits more than outweighs the risk of skin cancer.

If you’ve been avoiding the sun like the plague, you’ll be relieved to know that melanoma is not caused by sun exposure. Although the reported number of new cases of melanoma in the US has been reportedly increasing for more than 30 years, a landmark study in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests this apparent increase is a result of non-cancerous lesions being misclassified as “stage 1 melanoma.” In other words, people are being diagnosed with melanoma even when they have only a minimal, non-cancerous lesion, and these diagnoses are significantly skewing cancer statistics. The sun is nothing more than a scapegoat in this phenomenon of “increased melanoma.”

The medical journal, The Lancet, wrote“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”  Melanoma also does not predominantly appear on sun exposed skin, but can appear anyplace on your body.

Increased UV exposure can increase the risk of basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, which are fairly benign by comparison, The risks associated with insufficient vitamin D are far greater.

Vitamin D’s protective effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become fully differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous.

Many actually did double harm to themselves by slathering on the sunscreen. Sunscreen typically only block the UVB rays, these are the burning rays, but it is also UVB which stimulates the production of vitamin D. By blocking the UVB rays they didn’t burn as rapidly, so they stayed in the sun longer, but the UVA rays still penetrated deep into the skin which causes skin aging, wrinkles, etc.

So, this summer, get outside, enjoy the sun, just don’t get burned.  15-30 minutes of midday sun can give you a good dose of vitamin D, then put on a sun screen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

If you are confined to an office indoors and can’t get some mid day summer sun, then be sure to supplement with vitamin D and get your blood serum levels of vitamin D tested. It is hard to overdose on vitamin D, but a vitamin D deficiency can be deadly.

What Do Statin Drugs Really Do? What do you do?

Millions of people are prescribe a range of cholesterol lowering statin drugs such as Crestor, Zocor, Lipitor, Simvatain, and other drugs, and the herbal supplement red rice yeast. These do indeed reduce the levels of cholesterol. There is a whole discussion about whether cholesterol causes heart disease or not, but I won’t address that here. Let’s take a look at how these drugs work.

These statin drugs don’t directly lower cholesterol levels, what they do is disrupt the metabolic pathwah which ultimatly produces cholesterol. ( HMG-CoA reductase pathway).  The statin drugs block one of the enzymes 27 steps before cholesterol production. At each step of this chain of chemical reactions there are other beneficial chemicals produced by the many branches.

One of the very important products of this metabolic pathway is CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10). So Statins not only hamper the production of cholesterol, but also CoQ10.   CoQ10 is an important mitochondrial cofactor (Mitochondria are the cells’ energy-producing organelles.).  When you deprive every muscle cell in your body of CoQ10, you lose strength and may experience muscle pain.  Guess which muscle has the most mitochondria and produces the most energy? Your heart. When your heart can’t produce enough energy to pump blood efficiently you experience congestive heart failure. This disease has drastically increased since statin drugs were introduced.

Cholesterol itself is the precursor to some very important and critical vitamins as well – Cholesterol in your skin is converted to Vitamin D by sunlight.  So if you take statin drugs to lower cholesterol then you also reduce your ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. People trying to reduce tehir cholesterol will also probably reduce the amount of cholesterol rich foods, which just so happen to be the foods highest in vitamin D.

So what do you do? First consider if you really need to take statin drugs.  Consider this, over half of all people who are brought to the emergency room with heart attacks have normal or low cholesterol. Not what you’d expect.  So, if you are going to stay on statin drugs then you must supplement with CoEnzyme Q10 and Vitamin D.

Below is a recent study which was published which looked at the incidence of muscle pain in statin taking patients compared to non statin taking individuals.

The January, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published the finding of Danish researchers of reductions in glucose tolerance and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels in men treated with simvastatin, one of several statin drugs commonly prescribed to lower high cholesterol.

Can You Get All the Nutrients from Food Alone?

Many people and doctors believe that you can get all the nutrients you need from food alone. This is only partially true. If you only want the RDA levels of key vitamins and minerals, then you probably could get that from a decent well balanced diet. An RDA level diet, as I’ve written previously, only provides enough to avoid the diseases of deficiency like beri beri, pellagra, rickets, scurvy, etc.

Research has shown that that there are optimal levels of key nutrients that provide disease prevention and can turn back some diseases. These are usually far greater than the RDA levels many popular nutritional supplements are proud to state that they provide. These levels would be difficult to be obtained by food alone. It depends on the foods eaten, but it has been estimated that you’d have to consume over 20,000 calories a day, every day, Continue reading “Can You Get All the Nutrients from Food Alone?”

Is Calcium Really Dangerous Like We’ve Seen on the News?

There have been several news reports and studies lately saying that calcium supplements lead to an increase in heart disease and that even calcium plus low dose vitamin D leads to an increase in heart disease. In addition they claimed it showed no, or minimal improvement in osteoporosis.   Most are relying on a study published online May 23rd in the journal Heart.

I saw one report in a daily email targeted to doctors that prescribing calcium and vitamin D doesn’t help osteoporosis and leads to increased heart disease, so they are better off to make sure their patients aren’t taking them and they should stay on their prescription drugs for osteoporosis.

So with these kinds of headlines, is it safe to take Calcium and or Vitamin D supplements?  Yes it is, but you need to take a critical look at these studies and understand the basis of how calcium is used in our bodies.

First, Calcium alone can lead to the problems above due to the calcification of soft tissues, like hardening of the arteries and atherosclerotic plaque. What these studies failed to do was provide adequate amounts of magnesium along with calcium. When you eat a well balanced diet you are receiving both calcium and magnesium, unfortunately according to the USDA 57% of americans suffer from inadequate magnesium. Magnesium is a key ingredient to reduce the risk of heart disease because it is a calcium channel blocker.

Second these studies omitted adding vitamin K to the supplements. Studies have shown numerous times that we receive far too little vitamin K in our diets and that once vitamin K levels are raised that there is a 57% reduction from dying from cardiovascular disease  and most of those with blocked arteries and heart valve damage show low vitamin K status.  Furthermore, women taking vitamin K have reduced fractures by 81%.  So vitamin K both helps increase circulatory health and reduces fractures.

So these studies which have looked at just calcium or calcium and vitamin D omitted two other key nutrients which would have completely reversed the outcome of the studies – Magnesium and Vitamin K.

Now if we look beyond just cardiovascular health and also look at skeletal health and avoidance of osteoporosis, which is why most people take calcium in the first place, then three other nutrients are critical to enable your body to move calcium into the bone matrix:

  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D, the new wonder nutrient, enhances calcium absorption in the small intestine and calcium utilization in bone formation. Vitamin D also influences the utilization of phosphorus, another mineral that is important for strong bones.
  • Silicon – This gives stability to all the connective tissues of the body and is essential for proper calcium utilization. Silicone is key to the calcium mineralization of the bone matrix.
  • Boron – Boron reduces calcium excretion and increases the deposition of calcium in the bone.
So if you’re taking calcium supplement for bone health, make sure it also has magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D, silicon, and boron. The omission of any of these key nutrients will reduce the effectiveness in the prevention of osteoporosis.
The proportions of these nutrients in your supplement and diet are also important. Ideally the amount of calcium should be twice the amount of magnesium. In the the case of the supplement we use and recommend, it has 800 mg of calcium and 400 mg of magnesium  per serving. (proper dosage is 2 servings per day, so twice the above amounts.)
As always just because the label says it has certain amounts of certain nutrients isn’t necessarily a guarantee that it does. ConsumerLabs has found far too often that supplements are lacking in stated nutrients and often, contain lead as well. Inexpensive super market, big box, and drug store brands often use minerals as found in the earth which brings along lead and other undesirable elements.  High quality supplement will use primarily chelated minerals. That means they are bound to organic amino acids, just like they are when you obtain them from fruits and vegetables.

Keep the Vitamin D levels up to insure an active life into the Golden Years.

Here is yet another study showing how important vitamin D is.  For all of us Baby Boomers and beyond, this is something we need to pay attention to to help insure we can stay active as long as possible.

In an article published online on May 9, 2012 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine report an association between reduced levels of vitamin D and a greater risk of disability or loss of mobility in older men and women.

For the current investigation, nutrition epidemiologist Denise K. Houston, PhD, RD, of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology and her associates utilized data from 2,099 African-American and Caucasian participants enrolled in the National Institute on Aging’s Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study. Mobility, as assessed by the ability to walk a specified distance and climb stairs, was evaluated every six months over six years of follow-up. Blood samples obtained at the one year follow-up visit were analyzed for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and parathyroid hormone levels.

Levels of serum vitamin D of less than 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) were found in 28.9 percent of the subjects, and levels of 50 to less than 75 nmol/L were measured in 36.1 percent. Those whose levels were between 50 and 75 nmol/L had a 27 percent greater risk of developing a mobility limitation and a 30 percent greater risk of mobility disability than those whose levels were at least 75 nmol/L. Among those whose serum vitamin D levels were lower than 50 nmol/L, the risks were 29 percent and 93 percent greater.

“This is one of the first studies to look at the association of vitamin D and the onset of new mobility limitations or disability in older adults,” announced Dr Houston. “We observed about a 30 percent increased risk of mobility limitations for those older adults who had low levels of vitamin D, and almost a two-fold higher risk of mobility disability.”

Because vitamin D plays a role in muscle function, Dr Houston suggested that reduced levels could decrease physical strength and performance. Deficient levels of the vitamin, which have been implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease and other conditions, can also indirectly impact physical function. “About one-third of older adults have low vitamin D levels,” Dr Houston noted. “It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone and older adults, who may not spend much time outdoors, may need to take a vitamin D supplement.”

While the current dietary recommendation for older individuals is just 800 international units per day, Dr Houston remarked that “Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other health conditions. However, clinical trials are needed to determine whether increasing vitamin D levels through diet or supplements has an effect on physical function.”

Personally I take 1,800 iu daily in my multivitamin plus I add another 2,000 iu daily.  Even for those who spend a lot of time in the sun, you may not be retaining all the vitamin D you make. See other posts in this blog for information on how to optimize vitamin D production and keep from washing it away (hint, don’t shower for a day or two after good sun exposure.)

Going to enjoy some fun in the sun this weekend? If you forget your sunscreen, then just skip the shower.

This holiday weekend many of us will be heading out to the beach, lakes, mountains, or just gardening in the yard. The forecast here is for lots of sun, so lots of sunburns on that winter white skin.

So many will grab the tube of sunscreen out of the medicine chest, slather it on, and think they are safe. It could be our obsession with sunscreen which has given way to the rise in skin cancer in the past decades. Lets back up for a bit of physics and biology.

The sun’s rays consist of visible light, inferred, which we feel as heat, and Ultraviolet, which we can’t see, but these very short wavelengths can penetrate out skin. The two ranges we often hear about are UV-A and UV-B.

UV-B is the shorter of the two and is the one responsible for the sunburn we are all probably too familiar with. UV-B is also the wavelength which converts cholesterol in our skin into Vitamin D.  Most of the sunscreens were designed to block the UV-B rays to help prevent a burn (Remember UV-B like Burn)

UV-A is the longer wavelength, which can penetrate deeper into the skin, and play a major role in skin aging and wrinkling. UV-A also can cause mutations and DNA damage in the basal layers of the skin where most skin cancers begin.

Lets talk a bit about Vitamin D. There is an avalanche of research coming out on Vitamin D over the past years and it is a key ingredient in your bodies anti-cancer defenses.  Vitamin D is fat soluble and is produced by a reaction in your skin brought on by exposure to UV-B rays. Once vitamin D is produced it resides in the surface oils in your skin and takes 18 hours or more to be absorbed deeper into the skin where it can become available to the rest of your body.

So lets take a look at a couple of scenarios:

  • The common scenario for the past few decades: You go out in the sun, slather on a traditional sunscreen so you don’t get a sunburn. If you were good you reapplied it ever few hours. Keep reapplying and you could stay out in the sun all day without burning. So what was the end result? You didn’t burn, you didn’t produce much vitamin D, AND UV-A rays did lots of damage to your deeper cells and may have pushed you one notch closer to starting the cascade of events which lead to skin cancer.  Vitamin D could help prevent this, but you didn’t produce much because you kept the sun screen on which blocked the UV-B rays.
  • The other common scenario is that you didn’t put much sunscreen on, or maybe none at all, you were in the sun for a little while, started burning, and covered up or went inside (or maybe stayed out a bit longer and fried yourself.  so in this scenario, you produced a ton of vitamin D. You didn’t do near as much damage to your deeper skin from less exposure to UV-A. Then you went in and very gently took a shower to get the salt water, lake water, sweat or what ever else off. Well doing that just washed all that vitamin D down the drain. So you’ve done less damage than the first scenario, but still lacking vitamin D.
  • A better scenario:  you slather on a full spectrum sunscreen which has agents to block both UV-A and UV-B rays. So you don’t produce the vitamin D, but you don’t burn nor damage your skin long term.  
  • Well there is one common scenario: Go out have fun hiking, biking, in the boat, etc. Get some good sun, maybe a little pink, but hey, you’re out camping, so you don’t take a shower until you get home, so that vitamin D has a chanced to get into your system and offer some anti cancer protection.
  • The final scenario, which is what I try to do, is I take 5,800 iu of vitamin D per day in supplements spread out twice a day. Then I use a full spectrum sunscreen as much as I can. I try to keep a shirt on my pasty white body which hasn’t seen the sun all winter.  
The labeling laws are changing, and I’m not up on the current laws as to what they can or can’t say, but grab your tube of sunscreen, or daily face cream and see which of the following ingredients it has in it. The table below lists most of the sunscreen chemicals and which range of UV radiation they block BUT read the next two paragraphs before you run for your skin care.
There are also the physical sunblocks like zinc oxide (that white stuff the life guards used to put on their nose) and there are also powders with tinted minerals, like zinc oxide, which block the sun fairly well, but don’t look like the life guards nose.  These are great for every day used.

There are numerous chemical names for each compound, so you may see something else listed on the label. For example Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is also known as Oxybenzone.  Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate and Octyl Methoxycinnamate are also known as Octinoxate. So it may take some research to see which chemicals are the sunscreen agents.   A good source for honest scientific skin care ingredient information is  

FDA-Approved Sunscreens
Active Ingredient/UV Filter Name Range Covered
UVA1: 340-400 nm
UVA2: 320-340 nm
UVB: 290-320 nm
Chemical Absorbers:
Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) UVB
Avobenzone UVA1
Cinoxate UVB
Dioxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) UVA2
Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid) UVB
Homosalate UVB
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate) UVA2
Octocrylene UVB
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) UVB
Octisalate ( Octyl Salicylate) UVB
Oxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Padimate O UVB
Sulisobenzone UVB, UVA2
Trolamine Salicylate UVB
Physical Filters:
Titanium Dioxide UVB, UVA2
Zinc Oxide UVB,UVA2, UVA1

So go out and enjoy the sun this long holiday weekend, just make sure you have a full spectrum sunscreen and you’ve taken some vitamin D. Or go out get fried, just resist taking a shower for a couple days.  
Just as a note, the daily skin moisturizer I use has three different sunscreens in it blocking both UV-A and UV-B rays and is rated as SPF 15. It is also free of parabens, formaldehyde releasing agents, and all other chemical preservatives.  I’ve used this when I go running and skiing and have never burned – And I take my vitamin D.

Vitamin D & C aid in muscle recovery and speed recovery from ACL injury.

Can vitamin D reduce muscular weakness in healthy and active adults? What role does vitamin C play in the recovery of knee injuries? Can simple vitamin supplements help the body with pain and stiffness due to vigorous exercise and do vitamins respectively improve healing after surgery? Scientists from  “USANA Health Sciences“ and researchers at TOSH (The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital), a special clinic for orthopedics in Utah, are trying to answer exactly these questions with a variety of studies.

With the first study, Tyler Barker Ph., physiologist at TOSH, and Brian Dixon PhD., USANA scientist, are trying to determine whether vitamin D can reduce muscular weaknesses after high impact athletic exercise. Vitamin D is known to prevent or reduce cardiovascular disease, and after all, the heart is just one big muscle. “The conclusion here is that vitamin D helps to shorten the recovery time by minimizing the muscle weakness“, Dr. Barker explains: „That could mean a significant difference in the individual performance and help prevent some of the unpleasant after-effects of high impact or unaccustomed exercise. In addition, it creates the basis for future studies at the molecular and cellular level“.

Dr. Barker classifies the study’s participants as “weekend warriors“, who are between 18 and 45 years old and to date have not taken any vitamin supplements. The athletes were randomly divided into three groups. One group receives placebos. The second group receives 200 IU and the third group 4000 IU (international unit) of a specifically formulated vitamin D nutritional supplement. The participants provide blood samples and their muscular strength is being measured, each time prior and after intense exercise. The scientists only test the participants during the winter months when the vitamin D levels are at their lowest levels. The study began this past winter and is expected to continue for an additional two to three years.

The second study involves patients of TOSH who have suffered injuries in the anterior cruciate ligament. The scientists hope that the study is going to help them find a complementary therapeutic approach for improving musclular strength after surgery. “As published in “Free Radical Biology and Medicine“, we discovered a connection between the plasma ascorbic acid concentrations prior to surgery and the muscular strength gain after the surgery“, said Dr. Barker: “Especially patients with a higher vitamin C levels before the surgery showed a better recovery process“.

According to the “National Institute of Health“ the human body requires vitamin C in order to produce collagen which the body uses to to create skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. It supports the healing of wounds and maintaining cartilage tissue, bones and teeth. Vitamins C and E belong to the antioxidants that slow down the aging process and help to eliminate free radicals. Dr. Barker believes that lowering oxidative stress and adequate vitamin C and E levels can improve the chances of recovery after a cruciate ligament surgery.

Note that USANA Health Sciences provided supplements for use in these studies. USANA is also the supplement to choice used by the US Olympic ski team, snowboard team, speed skating teams, US Luge, along with numerous Canadian and international Olympic teams. USANA is also the only supplement the Women’s Tennis Association allows their players to use. In addition there are numerous individual Olympic, professional, and amateur athletes using the USANA products. To support these athletes USANA has funded numerous research studies to help elite athletes improve their sports performance, enhance post workout recovery, and aid in injury recovery.

Vitamin D better than fluoride at preventing cavaties.

We’ve all heard for years that fluoride in your water helps prevent cavities, but fluoride is a dangerous poison. Don’t think so? Look at the danger labels on fluoride tooth paste and mouth washes. If you swallow any, call the CDC Poison Control Center immediately – And flouride is in many city water supplies!  A much safer alternative exists. Just take a walk in the sun to help prevent cavities or make sure you are supplementing with Vitamin D.  This research goes back to the 1920s. Below is an excerpt from the nonprofit Vitamin D Council:

“There were also several studies reported on vitamin D and dental caries in the 1920s and 1930s. May Mellanby and coworkers in Sheffield, England, did studies on the role of vitamin D on teeth in the 1920s.
The first experiments were with dogs, where it was found that vitamin D stimulated the calcification of teeth. Subsequently, they studied the effect of vitamin D on dental caries in children, finding a beneficial effect.
Additional studies were conducted on children in New York regarding dental caries with respect to season, artificial ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiance, and oral intake of vitamin D with the finding that it took 800 IU/day to prevent caries effectively.”
Use of vitamin D appears to be a better option for reducing dental caries than fluoridation of community water supplies, as there are many additional health benefits of vitamin D and a number of adverse effects of water fluoridation such as fluorosis (mottling) of teeth and bones.”
Now that we are heading into winter it is almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from the sun in most of the US, unless you’re laying on the beach in Florida, so you must supplement. Make sure you’re children are getting adequate vitamin D as well – we know how hard it is to get them to brush well, so Vitamin D may help.
Make sure your supplements are only vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) as this will convert into the active form of vitamin D in your system. Not all supplements are created equal. Some will use inferior, and cheaper, ingredients. Others may contain less than what is on the label or be contaminated. Make sure your supplements are manufactured to pharmaceutical GMPs (Good Manufacturing Procedures) and have been audited by external 3rd parties such as

Vitamin D for Diabetes Prevention

Go on, head outside for a sunny spring walk: The vitamin D we get from everyday sunlight—as well as from fish, fortified milk, and supplements—may curb diabetes risk, suggests new research.
In the 17-year Finnish study, people with the highest blood levels of vitamin D reduced their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 40 percent. Of the more than 4,000 people in the study, the 187 diagnosed with type 2 registered the lowest vitamin D levels, regardless of age, sex, or time of year.
The vitamin D effect remained even when the researchers controlled for education, smoking, body weight, blood pressure treatment, and exercise, though it weakened slightly.
Also interesting was a discovery that people who exercised the most also showed the highest vitamin D levels, says lead researcher Paul Knekt, PhD, of the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki.
Why might vitamin D be higher in exercisers? Is it due to more time jogging in the sun? A healthier, fish-rich diet in this health-conscious group? More vitamin D supplementation? Or might exercise itself affect the body’s vitamin D processing?
That’s all fodder for future research, says Knekt, as is the question of whether vitamin D can reverse type 2’s progression. “Similar studies should be replicated before we can make firm conclusions about the role of vitamin D in diabetes prevention,” Knekt says.
The findings were published in the October 2007 issue of Diabetes Care.

Just remember that as the sun is going lower in the sky it is more difficult to produce Vitamin D from the sun, so you’ll need to supplement over the winter. In the northern half of the US it is almost impossible to produce enough vitamin D from the sun as the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough.

What may really cause the winter colds & flu

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a bit, but we were on vacation for a bit.

OK, we all know too well that winter brings a rash of colds and the dreaded flu. It has been assumed for years that being indoors and in close proximity to others and with the windows closed enables the viruses to spread easier. This may all be wrong. What recent research is showing is that it may all be linked to our vitamin D levels.

In the summer you are out in the sun more, with more skin exposed, and with the sun’s rays are more intense with the sun higher in the sky, so vitamin D levels are higher. But when winter comes, the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough to produce sufficient, or any, vitamin D in the northern (or southern) latitudes. Plus we are inside more, and if we are out side we have more clothes on. So very little chance to to produce vitamin D.

Research is showing a very strong link between vitamin D levels and immune system strength. If you want to beat the winter cold and flu cycle, maybe try supplementing with 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D. Personally I take 4,000 IU/day and haven’t had a cold or flu over the 6 years I’ve been supplementing with Vitamin D. (Initially it was lower levels)

Not that I’m totally immune, I may get the tickle in the back of the throat which has always preceded a cold for me, but now that tickle comes, is there for a day, and it then goes away. Maybe my immune system is just stronger and can defeat the invaders before they take control of my whole respiratory tract.

Skin and Sun Tanning (or Burning) and What About Sunscreen

Skin, the body’s largest organ, is its protective covering that receives external sensory stimuli. It consists of the outer layer, or epidermis, over a thicker layer, the dermis.

Epidermis is made of cells that include immune defenses, sensory receptors, pigments cells and keratin producing cells. Keratin producing cells migrate to the surface and form a dead, relatively dry outer layer that continuously sloughs off.

Dermis contains sensory nerves and blood vessels within connective tissue. Fibers of collagen and elastin make skin tough yet elastic.

Is a suntan, as opposed to sunburn, good for you?

No, because there is no safe way to tan. Melanin is the body’s substance that gives pigmentation to skin and helps protect the skin from sun. A tan is a telltale sign of skin damage. When ultraviolet rays penetrate the epidermis, the skin’s outer layer, the body produces more melanin in response to the injury.

With each tan, damage accumulates. It increases your risk for all types of skin cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and International Agency for Research on Cancer panel have declared ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sunlamps, to be a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).

Ultraviolet light damage also accelerates the aging process. Chronic exposure to ultraviolet light, both natural and artificial, changes the skin’s texture, causing wrinkles and age spots.

What in ultraviolet light causes the damage?

Ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays can each cause harm.

  • UVA rays penetrate deeper into the dermis, the thickest layer of the skin. UVA rays can cause suppression of the immune system, making it harder for your body to protect against development and spread of skin cancer. UVA rays also lead to premature aging of the skin through wrinkling and age spots.
  • UVB rays are the burning rays. They are the primary cause of sunburn.

How do you treat sunburn?

  • It can take up to 24 hours for all of the effects of sunburn to show.
  • The two most common types are first-degree and second-degree burns.
  • First-degree sunburns cause redness, but will heal, sometimes with peeling, within a few days. Cool baths, moisturizers and over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams can help.
  • Avoid “caine” products, such a benzocaine, as they might cause sensitivity to broad range of chemicals. Anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help ease the pain.
  • Second-degree sunburns cause blisters. Such burns can be considered an emergency, if a large area of skin is affected. Don’t break the blisters because it can delay healing and lead to infection. A layer of gauze may be used to cover the area until healed.
  • If severe sunburn is accompanied by headache, chills or fever, seek medical help immediately.

What about sun and vitamin D?

  • Sun exposure prompts vitamin D production in the skin.
  • Wearing sunscreen does decrease the production of vitamin D. Those who worry about not getting enough vitamin D should talk to their doctors about getting sufficient vitamin D from food and vitamin supplements.

Now what about Sunscreen

Is SPF 30 twice as protective as SPF 15?  Sadly no,

Definition and Workings of Sunscreen:

  • Sunscreen is a lotion formulated with unique chemical components to absorb UV light.
  • When sunscreen is applied to the skin, the chemical molecules form an invisible, protective layer on the skin that protects from penetrating UV rays.
  • All sunscreens protect from UVB rays, but only “Broad-Spectrum” sunscreens protect from both UVB and UVA rays.
  • UVB rays affect the top layers of the skin and are responsible for Burning.
  • UVA rays affect the lower layers of the skin and are responsible for Aging.
  • Remember to always buy a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum!

SPF… What’s it All About?

  • SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor.”
  • Always wear a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher!
  • SPF was developed to describe the amount of protection that a sunscreen provides. No sunscreen can protect your skin from all of the UV rays, but a higher SPF number indicates protection from more rays.
  • The SPF number tells you how much longer you can stay outside without burning while wearing the sunscreen product as opposed to not wearing any sun protection product. SPF measures “time to burn.”

SPF Math

SPF Number x Time to Burn Without Sun Protection = Time to Burn while wearing sunscreen*

*assuming that sunscreen is applied properly

Example: If your skin would burn in 10 minutes in the afternoon sun without any sun protection, and you applied a sunscreen with an SPF 15, you would have 15 x 10 = 150 minutes (2.5 hours) before you would burn.

Percentage of Protection from damaging UV rays:
SPF 15 = 92%
SPF 30 = 97%
SPF 40 = 97.5%

There is some controversy about very high SPF numbers and just how much more protection they provide. As you can see from the percentages of protection of the different SPF numbers, the difference in UV ray protection in SPF numbers becomes minimal as the number increases past about 30 or 40. The difference of protection between SPF 15 and SPF 30 is great (5%), but the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 40 is minimal (0.5%).

The Confusing Part About Sunscreen

  • Many people think that SPF values can be added. Actually, SPF values cannot be added – if you apply a sunscreen of 8 and then one of 12, you will not have the protection of an SPF 20. You will only be getting the protection of an SPF 12.
  • Reapplication only helps to ensure that you have the amount of protection and time before you burn that you calculated when you first applied sunscreen that day. Since no sunscreens can protect your skin from all UV rays, some rays will get through.
  • After your calculated “time to burn” has expired, your skin has absorbed all the UV rays that it can handle before it will start to burn. Even if you reapply sunscreen at this point, you will still burn because some rays will get through to your skin and your skin has already been saturated with UV. Therefore, you need to get out of the sun at this point and let your skin rest before exposing it to more rays.
  • Reapplication only ensures that you have your original time outside – sunscreen can wear off because of sweat, wind, and other factors you need to reapply in order to be protected.
  • So what’s the lesson to be learned about sunscreen? If you know that you will be in the sun for a long period of time, start with a higher-SPF sunscreen in order to have protection for the entire time that you are exposed.

Vitamin D levels linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer

Many epidemiological and observational studies have made a link between higher levels of vitamin D and a reduced risk of several types of cancers. A recent review was conducted to analyze blood vitamin D levels and the possible connection to colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.

Researchers identified 35 independent studies that met criteria, and separate analyses for case-control and prospective studies were done. 
A trend toward a decreased risk of breast cancer risk was associated with higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, but results from prospective studies only did not support an association between vitamin D status and breast cancer. Researchers found no association between vitamin D levels and prostate cancer.

However, a consistent inverse relationship between serum vitamin D levels and colorectal cancer was found. Analysis of data from nine studies showed that for every 10 ng/ml increase in levels of vitamin D the risk of colorectal cancer decreased by 15 percent. 

Researchers suggest that new randomized trials need to be organized to determine whether vitamin D status is a risk factor or a marker for colorectal cancer and how much of an increase is required to change the risk sufficiently to be useful as a public health measure. 

S. Gandini et al. Meta-analysis of observational studies of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and colorectal, breast and prostate cancer and colorectal adenoma. International Journal of Cancer. 5 March 2011, Volume 128, Issue 6, pages 1414–1424.

Low vitamin D levels linked to prediabetes and prehypertension

Prediabetes and prehypertension have been associated with low vitamin D levels. In a recent issue of the journal Diabetes Care, scientists report a correlation between reduced vitamin D levels and prediabetes and prehypertension in adults. Both prediabetes and prehypertension are estimated to exist in at least one-fourth of disease-free adults. 

Researchers analyzed data from 898 men and 813 women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2001-2006. Blood pressure measurements were obtained during examinations conducted upon enrollment, and blood samples were evaluated for glucose, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and other factors. 

Prediabetes was defined as having a fasting serum glucose of between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter, and prehypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 mmHg. Prediabetes was 33 percent higher among those with vitamin D levels of 76.3 nmol/l (30.5 ng/ml) or less compared to those with higher levels. Prehypertension was evident in 61 percent of those with the lower vitamin D levels. Participants with undiagnosed diabetes and untreated hypertension had even lower vitamin D levels on average. Serum vitamin D levels tended to decline with increasing age and body mass.

When the risk of having both conditions was considered, those with low vitamin D levels had 2.4 times the risk of that experienced by subjects with higher vitamin D levels.  

It is reasonable that among those with prediabetes or prehypertension, vitamin D supplementation resulting in increased serum vitamin D levels may help reverse subtle changes in fasting serum glucose and resting blood pressure that may lead to more advanced disease states. 

Alok K. Gupta, MD, Meghan M. Brashear, MPH and William D. Johnson, PHD. Prediabetes and Prehypertension in Healthy Adults Are Associated With Low Vitamin D Levels. Diabetes Care March 2011 vol. 34 no. 3 658-660.

Higher vitamin D levels associated with reduced risk of macular degeneration among women.

The results of a study reported in the April, 2011 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Ophthalmology suggest that having a high level of vitamin D could be protective against the development of early age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in adults.

The Study involved 1,313 women participants in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS), an ancillary study within the Women’s Health Initiative. Serum samples drawn between 1994 and 1998 were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which reflects vitamin D exposure from oral sources and sunlight. Dietary questionnaires administered upon enrollment were analyzed for vitamin D intake from food and supplements.

Although no significant association was found between vitamin D and early macular degeneration risk in the entire group, when subjects younger than 75 years of age were analyzed, a protective association emerged. “In women younger than 75, those who had 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations lower than 38 nanomoles per liter were more likely to have age-related macular degeneration than women with concentrations greater than 38 nanomoles per liter,” reported University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions assistant professor Amy E. Millen, PhD, who is the article’s lead author. “Blood concentrations above 38 nanomoles per liter were associated with at least a 44 percent decreased odds of having AMD.”

Intake of vitamin D from food and supplements was also found to be protective against early disease in participants under the age of 75. Those whose intake was among the top one-fifth of participants experienced a 59 percent lower risk of developing AMD compared to women whose intake was among the lowest fifth. Time spent in direct sunlight did not appear to be protective against the disease.

“The take-home message from this study is that having very low vitamin D status (25-hydroxyvitamin D blood concentrations lower than 38 nanomoles per liter) may be associated with increasing your odds of developing age-related macular degeneration,” Dr Millen concluded. “But based on these study findings, being at a higher vitamin D level than 38 nanomoles per liter does not appear to be more protective.”

“This is a promising study, but more still needs to be done,” she added. “We still don’t understand all of the effects of vitamin D on health.”

What nutrients can help boost testosterone in men?

There can be numerous causes of low testosterone, but no matter what the cause, without proper nutrition, your body won’t have the proper building blocks to generate testosterone. Let’s take a look at what your body needs to create the hormone, and what you can do to help the process along.

Essential Fatty Acids, the Building Blocks

A low fat diet is certainly a good thing, but some of the fat is actually helpful in building hormones, including testosterone. You’ve probably heard about “good cholesterol” versus “bad cholesterol” a little bit. This is one area where it comes into play. Your body builds testosterone from good cholesterol.
The omega-3 class of fatty acids is necessary for your body’s health. Aside from their key role in producing testosterone, they have been proven to aid your cardiovascular system, and are often thought to promote mental acuity as well.

For the most part, foods are very low in this class of nutrient. Fish is one of the finest sources of omega-3 fatty acid, but to using dietary fish to provide adequate levels is difficult, due to the volume of fish one would have to eat, as well as differences in the quality and absorbability of oil present in the fish. The best source of it is probably fish oil supplements, which are inexpensive and readily available.
The usual doses are between 1,000mg and 2,000mg per day. Be sure to use a fish oil supplement which is manufactured to pharmaceutical standards to insure purity and low, or no, heavy metals or PCB contamination.

Vitamin A, Creating Helpful Proteins

Protein synthesis is heavily aided by vitamin A. Among other things, this is the process that begins the conversion of cholesterol into testosterone. It also decreases estrogen production in the testicles. Laboratory experiments on rats deficient in vitamin A showed a remarkable drop in testosterone levels, until their sex organs eventually atrophied [2].

The good news about vitamin A is that you can get sufficient levels from most multi-vitamins. The RDA for men is 900IU per day, a fairly small amount. If you’re on a high protein diet, you will utilize more of the vitamin, so you may need slightly higher doses if that’s the case. However, this is a fat soluble vitamin, so we have to be careful not to take doses too high. While the toxicity level itself is fairly high, and you’d be in little danger of reaching it without huge doses, there are studies showing that doses in excess of 200% of the RDA value contribute to brittle bones and calcium loss [3].

A deficiency in vitamin A would render all your other efforts to boost testosterone useless, so just make sure to take a daily multivitamin, and feel secure that you’re getting a good supply of this necessary vitamin.

The best source of Vitamin A is Beta Carotene. You can take high doses of Vitamin A as beta carotene without any dangers of receiving too much. Beta Carotene is basically two vitamin A molecules joined together and your body will convert the beta carotene into Vitamin A as it needs it.

A note on Cholesterol. As mentioned above, testosterone is made from cholesterol. If you are on cholesterol lowering statin drugs like Crestor, Zocor, Lipitor, etc. These drugs poison the metabolic pathway which produces cholesterol and CoEnzyme Q-10, and ultimately the sex hormones. So if you are taking one of these drugs, they could be contributing to low testosterone too.

Vitamin D, a Cornucopia of Men’s Health Benefits

A remarkable body of research over the last few years has shown that vitamin D may be one of the most beneficial of all the vitamins, in maintaining and promoting good health. Among the laundry list of positive effects attributed to vitamin D are virility [4], hair growth [5], weight loss [6], and much more. A recent study by the University of Graz showed a direct correlation to vitamin D levels and testosterone levels. Our levels of D have been falling in recent decades though, due to avoidance of the sun and shifts in dietary patterns.

The RDA for vitamin D is only 200 IU, which seems horribly low in light of recent findings. While some doctors who are experts in the field suggest 2,000 to 5,000 IU a day as ideal.
Because of the chronic lack of this key nutrient, you may want to consider an extra supplement of it. It’s inexpensive and easy to get in large quantities. Most multivitamins don’t provide very high doses of it.

Zinc, Aiding in the Use of Vitamins A and D

An essential trace mineral, zinc is necessary to the production of testosterone, as well as the utilization of vitamins A and D. The RDA for zinc is 11mg per day in men, though the US National Research Council has set a tolerable upper intake of 40mg per day [7]. Multivitamins often provide the RDA value, and diets high in meats will provide plenty of zinc as well. If supplementation is desired, insure you are using a chelated form of zinc such as zinc citrate vs the salt such as zinc oxide which is poorly absorbed.

Calcium D-Glucarate to Dispose of Estrogen

Excess levels of estrogen are passed through the liver and disposed of by the body, binding them with an acid. The problem is that an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase can step in and break down these bonds, allowing the estrogen to be re-absorbed in the body. Calcium D-glucarate inhibits production of beta-glucuronidase, helping your liver flush toxins (and excess estrogen) more efficiently. It won’t increase your testosterone levels, but it can aid in keeping your free testosterone levels high, and unaffected by excess estrogen [9].

There are several ways you can control the amount of estrogen that is reabsorbed into your bloodstream.

  • The first is obvious; reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens by eliminating as many toxic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and plastic products from your environment as you can. Also eliminate the use of any body care products which contain parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, etc.) Parabens are readily absorbed through the skin and mimic estrogen.
  • Second, cut down or eliminate meat from your diet because it increases the level of the enzyme that rips the estrogen loose in the gut.
  • Also eat at least 2 vegetables from the cruciferous family every day, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli & brussels sprouts, and take antioxidants

Tongkat Ali to Increase Testosterone Levels

Tongkat Ali is popular for enhancing the sexual performance of males for hundreds of years. It has been used in many forms in the past and it is now available in more user-friendly forms.
Tongkat Ali has a direct impact on the body’s testosterone levels. Although the herb is a testosterone booster, it does not produce testosterone. The herb just help the body to produce testosterone more effectively and it also increases the strength, or in other words, the ‘tone’ of testosterone.

Final Thoughts

After considering these facts, it’s apparent that to make sure your body has everything it needs to produce testosterone (and get the best effect from a supplement like tongkat ali,) a multivitamin is probably one of the simplest, most effective supplements you can take. Here’s a summary:
A good multivitamin will provide plenty of vitamin A and adequate levels of zinc, as well as a small amount of vitamin D.

Consider a separate supplement of D, with a dose of around 2,000 IU or more per day.
Boost your omega-3 fatty acids level with a fish oil supplement. Aside from the testosterone creation benefits, the cardiovascular benefits are great.

Finally, a supplement of calcium D-glucarate can aid your body in disposing of excess estrogen, allowing your free testosterone to have a greater effect. The other supplements mentioned should take priority over this, but if you’re looking for the most dramatic results, it’s one to consider.
By following these guidelines to give your body the building blocks for testosterone, mixed with a regimen of tongkat ali to boost its production, you’ll achieve the optimal results. In addition, these supplements all provide a number of other beneficial effects for your body, such as improved immune response and cardiovascular benefits, making them all smart choices.

How to Choose a Good Multivitamin

There are thousands of different multivitamins on the market and the walk down the aisle of any store will leave your head spinning trying to figure out which to purchase.  Click here for a good article on how to choose a good multivitamin.


[2] Livera, et al., “Regulation and Perturbation of Testicular Functions by Vitamin A” (Review), Reproduction (2002) 124, 173-180
[3] Forsmo, Siri; Fjeldbo,Sigurd Kjørstad; Langhammer, Arnulf (2008). “Childhood Cod Liver Oil Consumption and Bone Mineral Density in a Population-based Cohort of Peri- and Postmenopausal Women: The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study”
[4] Kwiecinski GG, Petrie GI, DeLuca HF. (1989) “Vitamin D is necessary for reproductive functions of the male rat”
[5] Vegesna V, O’Kelly J, Uskokovic M, Said J, Lemp N, Saitoh T, Ikezoe T, Binderup L, Koeffler HP. (2002) “Vitamin D3 analogs stimulate hair growth in nude mice”
[6] Kamycheva E, Joakimsen RM, Jorde R. (2003) “Intakes of calcium and vitamin d predict body mass index in the population of Northern Norway”
[7] (2001) “Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc” Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board.
[8] Barrie, SA.; Wright JV, Pizzorno JE, Kutter E, Barron PC. (1987). “Comparative absorption of zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate in humans”
[9] Jim Wright “The Toxic Avenger: Calcium D-glucarate”, Flex (Feb 2002)

Levels of Vitamin D needed to prevent cancer much higher than RDA levels

Our government says that the RDA of vitamin D is 400 IU/day for adults. That is great, at that level you probably won’t get rickets. You’re probably not concerned about preventing rickets. You’re probably interested in preventing cancer or type-1 diabetes though.

Recent research at UC San diego and published in the International journal of Cancer Research and Treatment though is showing that higher levels of Vitamin D, 4,000 to 8,000 IU/Day are necessary to prevent or markedly reduce by half the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. Even in the general population including those who take vitamin D supplements 90% of the population is still vitamin D deficient, even based on minimal RDA levels.

Here is the link to the UC San Diego press release:

Here is the link to the published paper

You can’t get the amounts you need daily from your multi. Even the most popular multi only has a meager 500 IU/Day. The #1 rated multi in North America has a respectable 1,800 IU/day, but still far short of what you need to take daily. In the winter you can’t get enough vitamin D from the sun unless you are laying on the beach in Florida daily.  

Why would the government and FDA suggest an RDA of only 400 IU/day? The RDA values are based on the minimum levels you need to avoid diseases of deficiency like rickets, beri beri, scurvy, etc.  It is also economics. The pharmaceutical giants have tremendous influence on the FDA. If everyone started taking 8,000 of inexpensive Vitamin D tomorrow, within a few years the pharmaceutical companies would be losing billions of dollars by people not needing their very expensive drugs. For 70 cents  a day you could be taking 6,000 IU of a pharmaceutical grade Vitamin D and greatly reduce your risk of many cancers. Contrast that with the profits from a cancer drug which costs $8,000 per month!!!

For additional vitamin D select a high quality pharmaceutical grade supplement from a reputable manufacture. Often what you buy in the local store or internet store is manufactured by an unknown chemical company and just distributed by the firm you deal with. You have no idea of the quality control processes they have in place or the purity of the product. I’ve personally walked through some plants which anyone would find disgusting – like dogs walking around open containers of raw ingredients sitting on the floor. People smoking within a few yards, doors wide open to let what ever is outside, inside, and more. Contrast that to a company like Usana Health Sciences,  who has been certified as a pharmaceutical grade manufacture and follows quality and cleanliness procedures required by prescription drug manufactures. Their manufacturing area is cleaner than an operating room.