You probably need Vitamin D
Posted Tue, Jun 29, 2010

As my friend and mentor on Mad Money, Jim Cramer, likes to say: When the facts change, change your position. It is so easy to make fun of experts after they stake out a position that is tenuous at best, even when they are your colleagues. So it was when I took out my pen-cudgel and attacked the bandwagon proponents of Vitamin D. You know who they are. They are the doctors who have you come in repeatedly for the same blood tests, give you medicines which are natural and homeopathic and of course which are good for you. They are the doctors who use baby talk as when they refer to “your tummy” or listen to your heart and take blood pressure through your clothes and who interrupt you as your describe your symptoms (oops, did I do that?). They are doctors who rationalize that placebos are actually good for you because they do no harm. So here I am indignantly self-righteous, proclaiming truths and pithing the parochial platitudes of self indulgent monoliths of medicine.

Thus it was that I took out my sword and slayed the dragons who proselytized the universal good of Vitamin D. Indeed they would have you believe it cures everything from cancer to depression to arthritis, to gout. It can be bought over the counter or with a prescription and in doses from 400 units to 50,000 units and damned if anyone knows where it came from or how it works but we all need to take it and for sure follow it with repeat blood tests.
Yet now I am taking vitamin D and I can tell you I am swallowing a lot more than a little capsule with each morning dose. So maybe if I give you a little information I can expiate some of my guilt and still maintain my peacock airs: Previtamin D comes from cholesterol. Yes, the same cholesterol you are paying your doctor to reduce. It is converted to vitamin D in the skin. It has been linked to heart disease and to diabetes and there are a host of other diseases which have been implicated. I am struck by the first two. I am also struck by the fact that Vitamin D concentration diminishes with age and most especially by a reduction in exposure to sunlight. So here is the kicker. The darker skinned a person is the more likely he will have vitamin D deficiency. And by extension if you are an adult (chronologically) and a city dweller you have up to a 70% chance of being deficient in Vitamin D after the age of 40; worse if you are African American. One last point: sun screens may reduce the ability to form Vitamin D. For all my readers in Miami you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. But listen up Chicago: we are lucky if the sun shines 4 months a year! It is OK to lighten up on the sunscreen during the winter and other cloudy months.
So there you have it. I took a friend’s advice and measured my own Vitamin D and I am really deficient. I took my friend’s advice and began with large doses of Vitamin D3 (the stuff we normally make) and then followed it with repeat blood tests and as my levels headed toward normal I switched to the exogenous or externally produced forms. I would worry about my forthcoming guilt but I think I am developing Alzheimer’s and I will forget my embarrassment by tomorrow. For those of you living in the city and over 40 years old, it may not be a bad idea to have your doctor draw vitamin D levels. But never tell him that it was I that suggested it.


Edward Lack
Edward Lack MD is a board certified dermatologist and a board certified dermatologic cosmetic surgeon. He is President and Medical Director of MetropolitanMD, a multispecialty cosmetic surgery center in Chicago,which is unique in having a double board certified cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, a double board certified facial plastic surgeon, and a double board certified cosmetic plastic surgeon. Dr. Lack is also the Past President of The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.

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