The answer to the question is Vitamin D replacement therapy. Yes, you heard it here! There is a Vitamin D deficiency pandemic in the world! Eating a balanced diet or even living near the equator is not sufficient and every man, woman and child who does not get lots of sun or ingests at least 2000-10,000 units of D per day is at high risk for skeletal and non-skeletal consequences. In the USA all age groups from children to the elderly are affected, especially African Americans. 36% of the population aged 18-29, 42% of African Americans and at least 50% of the population aged 49-83 are affected by this deficiency. Vitamin D is produced naturally in the skin by a series of reactions triggered by sunlight. The judicious use of sunscreen, clothing and cultural practices, skin pigmentation, body fat, aging and many drugs all inhibit this cutaneous production of Vitamin D. And furthermore, few foods contain vitamin D. Some seafood, eggs and fortified milk all contain D but in insufficient quantities to solve the deficiency problem.
Severe Vitamin D deficiency in children can result in Rickets, a disease of bone deformation due to poor mineralization. Adults with severe deficiency can experience increased bone loss, poor bone mineral density, osteoporosis, and increased fragility and fracture risk. Vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate or is associated with at least 17 varieties of cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, depression, chronic pain and arthritis. Deficiency of this vitamin also causes osteoporosis, muscle weakness, periodontal disease and infectious disease.
Vitamin D is technically not a vitamin. It behaves more like as hormone. Its metabolic product, calcitriol (1,25 dihydroxy Vitamin D3), targets over 1000 genes. Every cell has a Vitamin D receptor that responds to calcitriol.
Vitamin D and its metabolites have a DIRECT INHIBITORY effect on the initiation and progression of various cancers. Calcitriol is anti-inflammatory and causes growth arrest of malignant cells. This is accomplished as calcitriol binds to Vitamin D receptors on the cells and initiates gene transcription. Vitamin D levels are inversely related to CRP levels indicating a major role for D in decreasing inflammation. Vitamin D levels, when optimized, increased neuromuscular performance in individuals. Studies also document that depression is associated with decreased D levels. Several studies reinforce this concept by optimizing D levels in depressed patients and noting significant improvement in symptoms.
Major studies have also shown the definitive relationship between low serum Vitamin D levels with all cause and cardiovascular mortality. The lowest quartile of patients (D levels<17) had a 26% increase in mortality. Hypertension responds to optimization of D levels in both men and women. And coronary heart disease increases as D levels decrease. Vitamin D reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood pressure, reducing the risk of infection, increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing cytokines (inflammatory molecules) in the blood.
Finally, Vitamin D exerts a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of Autoimmune Disease as shown in patients with Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. The risk of both of these disease states is significantly lowered in subjects with optimized Vitamin D levels.
So to end, I repeat that Vitamin D optimization is not only necessary for most individuals but is an extremely easy medical intervention that can save lives and promote health. Furthermore, it is a very cost effective treatment option! So be proactive. Have your D levels checked and if needed, start a program of D optimization. You will be healthier and better for it!