One hundred years ago, modern medical practice was barely in its infancy. Patent medicines – aka “snake oil” – were all the rage. Kerosene and radium treatments were common. And cigarettes were considered a good way to ease stress.
We’ve come a long way since then. Many diseases that were common then have been all but wiped out. But a few have been making a comeback. And one – childhood rickets – is due, at least in part, to “modern” medical advice.
Rickets is a painful, deforming condition caused by poor bone development. (A similar condition in adults – osteomalacia – is also on the rise.) The disease was common in the Victorian era, but was nearly wiped out in the developed world in the 2nd half of the last century.
Then something went insanely wrong. About 10 years ago, doctors across Europe and the U.S. began to see rickets making a comeback.
Modern Medicine Makes a Bad Situation Worse
A generation or so ago, parents encouraged their kids to play outside whenever the weather allowed. They dosed them with cod liver oil. And sunscreen was unheard of.
This all boosted their children’s vitamin D levels. And vitamin D prevents rickets. Governments got in the act, too. Since few foods are high in vitamin D, anti-rickets campaigns led to adding D to Key foods.
But cod liver oil fell out of fashion. Children started spending more time indoors. And when they do go outside, doctors now warn they should avoid sun exposure. Even though the sun is our #1 source of vitamin D.
Rickets – which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more – has come roaring back. And doctors are still telling us to stay out of the sun at all costs.
Low Vitamin D Is the New Winter Scourge
Study after study shows huge numbers of adults (and children) don’t get enough vitamin D. Half of all adults in Britain are vitamin D deficient in the winter.
In Korea, wintertime vitamin D is low in 73.0% of men and 88.9% of women. A 2006 study found even young adults in Northern Ireland were generally low on vitamin D. In sunny Portugal, almost three-quarters of adults suffer with low vitamin D during the winter months.
Conditions are the same south of the equator, too. In New Zealand, vitamin D deficiency hits 73% of women and 39% of men. In Australia, barely a quarter of adults get enough D in the winter.
Studies on adults in India, Ireland, Germany, and the U.S. all yielded similar results. A significant number of people simply don’t get enough vitamin D – especially in winter.
And here’s why that should concern you…
Low vitamin D levels are linked to myriad health problems. Low D could lead to falls, fractures, colon and breast cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, other autoimmune diseases, and more.
And here’s the kicker: The current guidelines for vitamin D (50 nmol/L – or 20 ng/ml) are probably too low to begin with.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
The current adult RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) per day. Or 800 IU if you’re over 70. It’s hard to get that much from your diet – unless you eat a lot of oily fish. So you need daily sun exposure or a supplement.
To complicate matters, the winter sun in most of the U.S. is too weak to trigger vitamin D production in your skin. So a supplement is the way to go if you live roughly north of Atlanta.
Many experts now say 800 IU is too low for the best health benefit. They say you need enough to raise your levels to 75 nmol/L… instead of the current guideline of 50 nmol/L.
Don’t worry about the technical lingo here. “nmol/L” stands for nanomole per liter. It’s a measure of the serum level of a substance – in our case, vitamin D. This doesn’t directly tell you how much vitamin D to take.
Both the International Osteoporosis Foundation and the Endocrine Society suggest the 75 nmol/L guideline. A University of Toronto expert also notes you need to reach this higher level for the maximum benefit to your bones.
A group of researchers from universities and hospitals around the world also suggest shooting for the 75 nmol/L target. To get there, they recommend getting at least 200 IU units more vitamin D than the current guidelines.
And with a safe upper limit of 10,000 IU, you should be fine taking 1,000 IU daily year-round – even if it’s just for insurance.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
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