Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D or calciferol is classified as a fat-soluble vitamin but has properties of a hormone and vitamin.  Oil-soluble vitamins can become toxic if taken in megadoses.  Vitamin D is called the "sunshine" vitamin because it is manufactured in the human skin when in contact with ultraviolet light from the sun's rays.  Vitamin D is related structurally to the hormones estrogen and cortisone.     

Main Functions and Uses:
Regulates calcium metabolism and normal calcification of the bones.
Helps increase the absorption of calcium from the intestines.
Necessary for thyroid function.
Necessary for normal blood clotting.
Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
Important in the prevention and treatment of breast and colon cancer.
Normal growth and development of bones and teeth in children.
Prevents and cures rickets.
Prevents tooth decay.
Important in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, bone fractures, and hypocalcemia.
When taken with Vitamin A, has been used in the treatment of diabetes, cataracts, visual problems, allergies, sciatia pain, and skin problems.

Signs of deficiency:
Chronic pain, chronic kidney disease, Crohn's disease, hyperthyroidism, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, and rickets.

Signs of toxicity:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin so excessive amounts may cause toxicity.  Common symptoms include excessive thirst, diarrhea, weakness, headaches, and bone pain.  Other symptoms may include abnormal calcification of soft tissues.  Symptoms usually decrease and disappear when megadoses are stopped.

Natural and food sources:
The sun is the best source of Vitamin D so get out in the sun for 20 minutes 3 or 4 times per week.  When that is not possible, Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, butter, fortified cereals and milks, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and shiitake and canterelle mushrooms.  For vegetarians, when sun exposure is not possible, it is wise to take a supplement to get enough vitamin D. 

Best supplement sources:
Fish or cod liver oil (Carlson's), Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), and Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).  Vitamin D3 is an animal source and Vitamin D2 is a plant source.  Vitamin D2 must convert to Vitamin D3 in the body and has limited functions, therefore Vitamin D3 is the preferable form because it is easily converted to the fully active Vitamin D3. 

Recommended daily amount:
400 IU - children
800 IU - adults
1,000 IU - adults 50+ or any menopausal woman

Vitamin D is best utilized by the body with Vitamin A so take it WITH a whole food mult-vitamin or IN a whole food multi-vitamin. Remember to combine what is already in the multi-vitamin with the oil if you are taking both. If you need 800 IU and your multi-vitamin has 400 IU, then you need to add another 400 IU from another source if you are not getting any sun exposure. Some multi-vitamins already have 800 IU of Vitamin D since the FDA has increased the minimum daily requirement.

Fish oil capsules

Drugs that interferes with absorption of Vitamin D - cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids, steroid hormones such as cortisone, and diuretics.
If you have liver disease, intestinal disorders, and gallbladder malfunction interfere with the absorption of Vitamin D.

Image: tungphoto /

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and an antioxidant.  Oil-soluble vitamins can become toxic if taken in megadoses.  Antioxidants are natural compounds that protect the body from free radicals.  Free radicals cause damage to cells and impair the immune system therefore leading to infections and disease.  Free radical damage is thought by scientists to be the basis of aging. 

Main Functions and Uses:
Skin - Needed for the maintenance and repair of the base layer of skin cells.
Eyesight - needed for the formation of rhodopsin which allows us to see at night therefore potects against night blindness. 
Bones and teeth - important in the formation and growth of bones and teeth.
Enhances and supports immunity.
Protects against colds and the flu.
Protects against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
Helps with skin disorders such as acne, wrinkling, and fading age spots.

Signs of deficiency:
Night blindness is one of the first signs of Vitamin A deficiency.  Other signs include dry hair and skin, dry eyes, poor growth, acne, frequent colds, and respiratory infections.

Signs of toxicity:
Taking large amounts of synthetic Vitamin A over long periods of time can be toxic mainly to the liver.  Signs of toxicity include abdominal pain, amenorrhea, enlargement of the liver, hair loss, itching, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, and birth defects.  Note: taking large amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene does not cause problems unless your liver cannot convert beta-carotene to vitamin A (rare).

Food sources:
Apricots, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, carrots, cherries, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, cod liver oil (Carlson's), kale, lettuce, mango, mustard greens, papayas, parsley, peaches, pumpkin, red cabbage, red peppers, spinach, spirulina, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, turnip greens, water cress, watermelon, and yellow squash. 

Animal livers -  not recommended.

Best supplement sources:
Natural form of beta-carotene contained in a whole foods multi-vitamin.

Recommended daily amount:
5,000 IU - 10,000 IU

Drugs that interferes with absorption of Vitamin A - antibiotics, laxatives, some cholesterol-lowering drugs, and alcohol. 
If you have liver disease or pregnant, do not take more than 10,000 IU per day without your doctor's approval.

Image: Grant Cochrane /

Friday, December 2, 2011

Violent Video Games and the Brain

The debate continues on violent video games and how it may affect your brain of people (especially young people) who enjoy this activity.  Researchers are now saying that there are negative affects of playing violent video games based on a study of young men.  An fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play has tracked changes in sections of the brain associated with cognitive function and emotional control.  These are the areas that deal with aggressive behavior.  A good enough reason to take all video games, but especially violent games, off your gift giving list this holiday season.  For more information see the article Report Violent Video Games Alter Brain Patterns at

Image: smokedsalmon /