Jerry Hickey is a pharmacist and radio personality and fills the esteemed role of Scientific Director and President of Invite Health. He has spent his professional life analyzing nutritional information and medical studies with the aim of creating the highest quality and most natural nutraceuticals for user’s maximum health benefits. Here, Jerry speaks about the benefits of Vitamin D…
A study of 165,000 in England shows that as you gain fat, you lose Vitamin D. A 10% increase in weight causes a 4% drop in Vitamin D. That’s from PLOS One Medicine, an open-access journal. We’ve known this for a long time. When you gain weight, your Vitamin D goes down and when you gain weight, your testosterone goes down. There’s no doubt it. It’s really important to lose weight, and if you’re heavy, take Vitamin D. Calcium plus Vitamin D slash hip fracture rates. That’s huge.
You have to be very careful where you get your health information. They do a very poor job on the morning and evening news. They do a very poor job of deciphering studies because they just read the headlines. They just tell you what the headline is, and they don’t read the study, and they wouldn’t understand it anyway. They’re not trained to understand these studies. So, for instance, a couple of years ago, there was a study published, and I was pretty shocked at the medical journal that published it. There was a study where they gave women 1000 mg of calcium and 400 units of Vitamin D3, and they said it didn't protect their bones. It didn't build bones, and I had a lot of women calling me and saying, “Hey, I’m not going to take it anymore. The New England Journal of Medicine says it doesn’t build bones.” So, how many women, because of the New England Journal of Medicine not doing their job properly, had a broken hip or a broken spine or a fractured wrist. Because what the study really said is, if women don’t take their calcium supplement, they don’t build bones, and if they take their calcium supplement, they actually build bones. The New England Journal of Medicine never told you that.
A year later, the research came out and showed that the people who didn't take the calcium and Vitamin D are at a disadvantage. If you don’t swallow it, how can it help you? So, here’s this new report that came out. They said that supplements with calcium and Vitamin D reduce the rate of hip fracture by almost 40%. So, if a thousand women were going to have a hip fracture, what they’re saying is only 600 of them would. 400 of those women would not have a hip fracture.
The Women’s Health Initiative is the largest randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial looking at calcium and Vitamin D. It involved over 36,000 older, postmenopausal women. It was done right here in the United States. The women were randomly given 1000 mg of calcium and 400 units of Vitamin D3 or they were given placebo for seven years on average, and 41% of participants didn't take it. So, it didn't help them. Of course, it’s not going to help them, and that’s what the New England Journal of Medicine reported. But in the 59% of the women who actually took their calcium and their Vitamin D, the number of fractures was 30% lower. I remember Nutro ingredients at that point had a headline that said calcium with Vitamin D supplement is good for bones, if you take them. But now, there’s another new analysis. It’s published in Osteoporosis International, and that’s a valid journal. It reports that among women not taking calcium or Vitamin D supplements at the start of the study, the risk of hip fracture occurrence was lowered by 40% compared to the placebo group. That’s a huge, huge benefit. Now, if that was out of a million, that would be 400,000 women who would not have a hip fracture. That’s a pretty relevant stunning benefit. That a lot of women that wouldn’t have a hip fracture.
Here is a study on women and breast cancer. It's a very important study, because it looks at vitamin D. Because there have been a number of studies showing that vitamin D levels are matched with breast cancer. There are certain cancers that are really connected to vitamin D, such as breast cancer and colon cancer. If you lack vitamin D, there seems to be a higher risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. Also, there's a number of studies showing that if you lack vitamin D, your chances of surviving the cancer are slimmer. One of them was on ovarian cancer, which is a nasty one. One of them was on pancreatic cancer, which is also a nasty cancer. The other one was on breast cancer. People who had higher levels of active vitamin D in their blood, had a lowered risk of dying from cancer and a greater chance of surviving it. Interesting stuff. More than interesting, it's very important; it's crucial information. So now men with prostate cancer; if they were blocking hormones or if they were chubby men with prostate cancer and they blocked testosterone, they could develop diabetes very easily. Simply giving them vitamin D was blocking the onset of diabetes. So, it seems that vitamin D is very important for the cancer process. It’s very important in the protection from cancer and also for surviving cancer. In men with prostate cancer, it helped to prevent the onset of diabetes, which happens frequently with chubby men with prostate cancer when hormones are blocked.
There have been a lot of studies with breast cancer. And this one, I kind of think hits the ball out of the ball park. It’s big time home run. It's from the Westmead Breast Cancer Institute in Sydney Australia. And they compared women with breast cancer to women without breast cancer, and found something very important: vitamin D was consistently lower in women with breast cancer versus healthy women. They said the best level of protection was 75; your vitamin D should be 75 or more. Women with lower levels of vitamin D had a 250 percent increase risk at developing breast cancer. Women, I want to repeat that, because a lot of women become low in vitamin D in the winter. And men too. Women with lower vitamin D levels had a 250 percent increase risk of breast cancer. Do I believe this? Yeah, I'll tell you why: there are docking sites on organs throughout the body that are dependent on vitamin D and these sites also help prevent cancers throughout the body. And there's evidence that vitamin D prevents a whole slew of cancers. Leukemias, lymphomas, possibly prostate cancers, colon cancer, breast cancer, etc. That's the blood cancers, the immune system cancers, cancers of men, cancers of women, cancers of everybody, pancreatic cancer, etc.
There's evidence that a lack in vitamin D increases your risk of all of those. Plus, if you lack vitamin D, it's easier to have an infection. There are cells that fight cancer and fight the flu and fight colds and fight all kinds of germs. They're called gammadelta t-cells. These cells have to be activated by vitamin D. If you lack vitamin D, they might not encounter it. They have less of a chance of encountering it. The percent of chance encountering it drops and they won't be activated. We actually call that “innervations” in biochemistry. Activation of cells is called “innervations”. So anyway, your gammadelta; if the flu comes into your body or pneumoniae goes into your lungs or you start to catch a cold, there's all kinds of signals transmitted throughout the immune system, throughout your body and your lungs and your nose and your sinuses and your prostate and your blood vessels, everywhere, and they in turn activate gammadelta t-cells. Gammadelta t-cells reach out with an antenna and have to touch vitamin D to be activated. It's kind of like vitamin D is their battery. If they cannot touch vitamin D, they won't get activated. Therefore, if you're low in vitamin D, if less vitamin D is floating around in your blood stream, in your plasma, the clear fluid in your blood stream, there's less of a chance of these immune cells encountering vitamin D and they're not going to get activated. So you’ll have a poor response to the flu, and you're more likely to develop the flu or pneumonia. So vitamin D is important for infections too.
Here's another very recent and important study. So, the researchers from Washington University School of Medicine found that diabetics with low vitamin D, less than 30 nano-grams per milliliter had a much higher incidence of white blood cells adhering to their blood vessels. Let me tell you what that's about. This is the reason why it wasn't reported in the news. I don't think they could understand how to report it. When you start the heart disease process, there's inflammation in your artery walls and the wall of your blood vessels. And immune cells cling on to it. They're called macrophages. And these cells, in turn, gobble up cholesterol and you build up a hardening of arteries. The only thing is that when they look at people with diabetes, at their cholesterol, at their blood sugar, at their blood pressure, how much they weighh, their race, etc., it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was vitamin D. If you lack vitamin D, more immune cells attached to your blood vessel walls and you have a higher risk of heart disease. There is a clear link right there. There have been a number of studies, by the way, that vitamin D is needed to prevent diabetes.
The next two studies on vitamin D are very interesting and ones you don't really hear about. And I do believe this, because there's a lot of docking sites or what we call receptor sites in the brain that vitamin D has to squeeze into. It's like having the right key to unlock your door. Vitamin D acts like a key. Vitamin D is a broadcaster. Small amounts of vitamin D go and circulate throughout the body. You don't need huge amounts. You don't need like a sandwich full of vitamin D, you need the small capsules. Vitamin D goes throughout your blood stream and then to your brain and then to your spine and then to your pancreas and your liver and your kidneys and your muscles. And wherever there's a key hole for it, it fits into that and then it makes good things happen. For instance, there are key holes for vitamin D, so it can build bone. There are key holes in your muscle for vitamin D, so it can help prevent damage after exercise. If you could take calcium and vitamin D after exercise, you're less likely to have sore muscles, because when you exercise, you push the vitamin D and the calcium out of your muscle. You push the electrolytes out of your muscle. There's a lot of science to exercise and getting a good workout and preventing yourself from getting injured if you're an elite athlete or if you're an older person trying to get into shape. That's really an application for this kind of research. When you exercise, you push the electrolytes out of your muscles because they use for energy. They use it like a battery. It's a complex sequence of events and you push the vitamin D out. If you take a calcium and vitamin D supplement after you exercise, it goes back into your muscle and your muscle gets reinvigorated and you have less risk of muscle cramp. So that's part of the science of exercise.
But what about mental health? There's a lot of docking sites for vitamin D in the brain. We know vitamin D is absolutely needed for a healthy brain. But here's a new study from University College in London. Low levels of vitamin D lead to depression in middle age. If your vitamin D is 75 or more, you cut your risk of depression in half. 75 is the magic number for vitamin D. A couple of months ago, I would have said 45 or 55. I was telling people, you have to get between 45 and 75. Now, it really seems that you want it like between 75 and 85. That's really, really the magic number. In the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicinethey found that African-Americans with low vitamin D feel very fatigued and also sleepy in the day time and it's hard for them to focus and to concentrate and pay attention. And it's important because African-Americans in the winter, their vitamin D levels get extremely low. African-Americans, especially, in the winter should be supplementing with vitamin D. They figure more than half of all cases of high blood pressure in African-Americans is simply due to a lack of vitamin D.