Test for Widespread Deficiency Under Fire

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

 July 16, 2014

  • 1 in 3 Americans are deficient in this critical nutrient
  • Why a task force says testing isn’t necessary
  • What you should ask your doctor

A new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has me up in arms.

Let me explain what’s happening…

There’s a vitamin deficiency that’s running rampant right here in the U.S. Just over 75% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. My patients are usually surprised to hear this. But it’s true. Here, in the “land of plenty,” a whopping three out of four adults aren’t getting enough vitamin D.

This is something I screen all of my new patients for, because it’s a critical concern. That’s because vitamin D is vitally important to your long-term health.

It reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It strengthens your bones. It even wards off several bacterial and viral infections, protects against autoimmune disorders, fights off depression and has a huge impact on your weight.

But guess what a special U.S. task force is saying?

After reviewing all of the data, the USPSTF concludes that “the evidence on screening for vitamin D deficiency to improve health outcomes in asymptomatic adults is insufficient, and the balance of benefits and harms of screening and early intervention cannot be determined.”

Well, that’s just a bunch of baloney.

First off, the test for vitamin D status, called a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D test, isn’t harmful at all. All it involves is a common blood test.

Second, the task force itself states “…studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased risk for fractures, functional limitations, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and mortality.”

Third, the panel also found “…adequate evidence that the harms of treatment of vitamin D deficiency are small to none.”

So, what’s the big deal?

The panel expressed concerns over what the exact cut-off for vitamin D deficiency is. That’s because some studies use 20 ng/ml to define deficiency. Other studies use 30 ng/ml as the cut-off.

Regardless of what measure past studies have used, the National Endocrine Society and other agencies have pretty well defined a reading below 30 ng/ml as insufficient. This has been shown to be the minimum measure needed to ensure specific health benefits, like reducing cancer, autoimmune disorders, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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The task force also noted there are numerous ways to test for vitamin D. And, they say it isn’t clear whether some tests might be more accurate than others.

But I’m not buying it. Screening by any reliable assay for 25-hydroxy-vitamin D will tell you what your vitamin D status is.

It seems to me the panel got off target with some needless nit-picking. Just consider the facts:

  • There are all sorts of potential health benefits associated with higher vitamin D levels.
  • Neither the testing nor the treatment is harmful.
  • We know what the definition of vitamin D deficiency is (<30 ng/ml).
  • A reliable assay will let you know whether you should be supplementing or not.

In other words, it’s a no-brainer! Forget about their recommendation and get tested. This is especially important today, when deficiency is running rampant.

Here’s what to do…

Vitamin D is the cheapest and most abundant vitamin in the world. All you have to do is head outdoors to get all you want – absolutely free. But today, it seems everyone is afraid of the sunlight. And, unless you’re eating three or four servings of salmon a week, there are essentially no foods that provide enough vitamin D.

That’s why I test all of my patients for levels of this critical nutrient. But most mainstream doctors won’t automatically give you the test. And this new recommendation by the USPSTF isn’t going to encourage them to start any time soon.

So, don’t hesitate to ask. Just tell your doc you’d like to have a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D – or 25(OH)D – test. He or she can draw the blood right along with your regular bloodwork.

What should you do if you’re in short supply? Supplement with the most active form of natural vitamin D available. It’s called vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and it’s the one that will give you the most benefit.

How much should you take? The government guidelines say you only need 200 IU each day. But, given the fact one in three Americans are deficient, that may be much too low. I suggest 2,000 IU daily and up to 5,000 IU if you’ve been tested as deficient. People who are dark-skinned or overweight may need even more. If you can find it with vitamin K2 and or Vitamin A added (other fat-soluble vitamins), even better.

And, don’t forget the most natural source of all… sunshine!

Ginde AA, et al. “Demographic differences and trends of vitamin D insufficiency in the US population, 1988-2004.” Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(6):626-3.

Holick MF, et al. “Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jul;96(7):1911-30.

Vieth R. “Why the minimum desirable serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level should be 75 nmol/L (30 ng/ml).” Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Aug;25(4):681-91.

Experts Recommend Screening for Vitamin D Deficiency in At-Risk Populations. News Release. National Endocrine Society. Jun 2011

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