Myth #1: Vitamin D is a vitamin. Although called a “vitamin”, this important element of health is actually a potent hormone that affects over 2,000 genes and at least 36 organs of the body. What is the difference between a vitamin and a hormone? I like to use the orchestra analogy. Vitamins are the individual instruments and hormones are the conductor.
Myth #2: Vitamin D is only important for bone health. Once linked only bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, Vitamin D is now recognized as a major player in total overall health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a myriad of common diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, migraines, and more.
Myth #3: We get plenty of Vitamin D from dairy products. We get most of our Vitamin D from sunshine and a smaller amount from foods such as fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products. Our body synthesizes 10,000-20,000 IU of Vitamin D after only 10-15 minutes of sunshine. An 8 ounce glass of milk only contains 100 IU.
Myth #4: Vitamin D deficiency is not common in sunny parts of the world. Because of our fear of skin cancer, we have been trained to either stay out of the sun or cover ourselves with clothing and/or sunscreen. This fear of the sun combined with our spending more time indoors in front of the electronics has contributed to a widespread deficiency of this essential hormone, even in sunny parts of the world. In my practice in St. Petersburg, Florida, 10% of patients are severely deficient, 30% are deficient, and 60% are suboptimal. And even those who spend uncovered time in the sun can be deficient because as we age, our skin is not as efficient at converting sunshine into vitamin D. So how do you know if you are deficient? You can have your Vitamin D level checked with a simple blood test. Insurance will usually cover Vitamin D testing in patients with osteoporosis or known Vitamin D deficiency. If it is not covered by insurance, the cost of the test is only $85-$100.
Myth #5: I get enough Vitamin D from my multivitamin. Multivitamins usually contain only 400-800 IU of Vitamin D. Some Calcium supplements contain 400-1,000 IU of Vitamin D. So why not just take mega-doses of Vitamin D? Unlike water-soluble vitamins whose excessive amounts can be excreted in the urine, excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D can increase to toxic levels. If you are not going to have your level checked, I recommend taking Vitamin D3 2,000 IU daily.