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Dr Russ Blog - Maybe Vitamin D Can't Do Everything After All
Maybe Vitamin D Can't Do Everything After All
Created on 3/5/2010

It seems that the potential benefits of vitamin D are limitless - it can help support bone health, may strengthen the immune system, and appears important with espect to maintaining a healthy heart.

Does its health benefits extend to managing high cholesterol? A recently published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the answer is no, but some questions remain.  

The study in question examined a large number of women who took either calcium and vitamin D, or who were given placebos. They were followed for 5 years, as were their cholesterol levels. At the end of the study there were no significant differences between the 2 groups with respect to cholesterol level.

The problems with the conclusion, noted as well by the study authors, are at least that it's possible that any benefit from one agent was masked by the combination of supplements, and that the dose of vitamin D used was quite low. Recall that for healthy people I often recommend 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, whereas only 400 IU daily were taken by women in the study.

Vitamin D does have some clear health benefits and supplementation seems to make sense, especially for those of us who rarely get sun exposure and those with a history of skin cancer or sun sensitivity. I recommend that most people, after discussion with their doctor, take a vitamin D supplement to help support, bone, heart, brain and immune system function.

As far as treating high cholesterol, it all starts with making good diet and exercise choices. Follow an anti-inflammatory style diet and exercise regularly. If your cholesterol levels are still elevated there are a small number of supplements that can help, most notably red yeast rice in combination with CoQ10, but the research on most other supplements used to lower lipid levels (like guggul and policosanol) has yielded disappointing results. Statin drugs can be very beneficial when necessary and are relatively easy to take (typically once a day), but should also be taken with CoQ10.

Some people develop muscle aches and fatigue while on statin drugs. Did you know that experts believe this is likely due to low vitamin D levels? It's true!

Maybe vitamin D in an adequate dose will be shown to offer benefit in the setting of high cholesterol, but for now stick with the tried and true - eat well, exercise regularly. If need be use something like red yeast rice or a pharmaceutical statin drug together with CoQ10 (discuss CoQ10 with your doctor - rare individuals should not use it, especially those on the blood thinning agent coumadin, also known as warfarin). And use vitamin D in a dose of around 2,000 IU daily to optimize your health in other ways.

And be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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