What to believe about Vitamin D
Medicine has a long history of embracing dietary or supplement cure-alls or panaceas. Vitamin D is the latest of these. The use of and testing for vitamin D has been wholeheartedly embraced by the lay and medical communities over the last several years with little questioning. The benefits of this vitamin seemed to be endless and the reports of the positive effects seemed too good to be true.
In fact, they were. More recent studies in peer reviewed medial journals have refuted many of the claims of vitamin D’s benefits. Last month, The New York Times ran a very perceptive article on vitamin D and its chief proponent, a Boston endocrinologist. It discusses the above information and also throws into doubt the motivation of that doctor. I highly suggest that you read the article.
My stance on this vitamin D movement has always been skeptical. I have too many patients concerned that if they protect their skin from the sun (and vitamin D generation), they will suffer the ill effects of low levels of vitamin D. The likely reality is that we do not know what, if any, is a low level of vitamin D. The normal levels promoted by the founder of the movement are quite high and it turns out that a large percentage of tested individuals are low by this standard. How can this be, a test that shows most patients are abnormally low? Again, this is unlikely to be true.
My advice to patients has always been: "Everything in moderation." This pertains to both sun exposure and vitamin D. My final observation is that no one has yet died of vitamin D deficiency but people die daily from melanoma, caused by excessive sun exposure and burning.