Dr. Michael Holick on How Vitamin D Benefits Your Health

By: | Tags: , | Comments: 0 | April 25th, 2018

Are you getting enough vitamin D? Do you worry about getting an autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, or how to protect your bones? Do you want to have a healthy pregnancy? Dr. Hotze interviews Dr. Michael Holick on how vitamin D benefits your health. You don’t want to miss this!

Podcast Transcription 

Stacey: Welcome to Dr. Hotze’s Wellness Revolution. I’m Stacey, here with our special host, Dr. Steven Hotze, founder of the Hotze Health & Wellness Center.

If you have not gone online yet to download our podcast, do so. All you have to do is go to Hotzepodcast.com. That’s H-O-T-Z-E podcast dot com. We always have a lot of interesting guests and interesting information. It’s always informative and educational, as well.

We do have a great informative, educational show for you today. We have a specialist on vitamin D. We have been singing the praises of vitamin D and how important it is, and so I am thrilled to have a doctor on here who can talk to us more in detail about that. Right, Dr. Hotze?

Dr. Hotze: Well, thank you so much, Stacey. And let me remind each one of you that I believe that you need a health coach. You need a doctor and a staff of professionals who can coach you onto a path of health and wellness, naturally, without using a pot full of pharmaceutical drugs, so that as you mature, you enjoy life and you feel full of energy, and vim and vigor, and you’re healthy.

There’s no reason, I don’t care what age, whether you’re 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, even 90, that you just shouldn’t feel full of energy. I’m 67. I’m still going strong, and the reason is due to the fact that I believe in natural approaches to health. And we’re going to talk about a very important vitamin that you need to be taking, if you’re not. I know if you’re a guest here at the Hotze Health & Wellness Center…everybody’s on vitamin D.

We’re visiting with Dr. Michael Holick. Dr. Holick is a Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University Medical School. He is also the director of the General Clinical Research Unit. He is the director of Bone Healthcare Clinic and the director of Heliotherapy. Do you know what that is? Heliotherapy? That’s light therapy. So he’s in charge of Heliotherapy, Light and Skin Research at Boston University Medical Center.

It’s interesting, and we’re going to find out from Dr. Holick, that when he was a graduate student, he was the first person to discover the active form of vitamin D, vitamin D3, which we use here at the Hotze Health & Wellness Center.

So without further ado, Dr. Holick, welcome to our podcast today.

Stacey: Yes, welcome.

Dr. Holick: My pleasure to be on with you.

Dr. Hotze: Dr. Holick, by the way, is the author, or co-author, of at least 13 books and 500 or more medical articles. He’s been referenced 63,000 times by other articles. This man is…if he is not the leading expert in vitamin D in the world, he’s one of the leading experts in the world, and he’s known for that.

Now, Dr. Holick, I’m just interested because you have so much work, and study and research that you’ve done on vitamin D.  How in the world did you get interested in vitamin D to begin with?

Dr. Holick: Everybody always asks the same question. And it was just to be in the right place at the right time. Back when I started my graduate studies, back in 1969, I went to the Department of Biochemistry and I was keen to work in the hottest area of biochemistry. Now at that time, it was the identification of DNA, and reverse transcriptase for cancer and all kinds of other issues. And so that’s what I wanted to work in.

But they had lots of postdoctoral fellows, so they weren’t interested in a graduate student. So I was sent over to the this guy, DeLuca, and he told me I’m going to work on vitamin D. And my response was, “Why would I want to do that?” And the answer was simple, “Because that’s probably the only thing you’re going to get to do.”

Stacey: Oh, that’s funny.

Dr. Holick: But it turned out to make a sow’s ear into a golden purse, because back then people thought vitamin D was important for rickets. We don’t see rickets anymore. And so really who cares about it? But now we recognize that it’s probably one of the most important nutrients for good health.

Dr. Hotze: Well, doctor, speaking about vitamin D, I’ve heard people say that, and tell me your take on this, vitamin D is really a hormone. Tell me your take on that, as opposed to calling it a vitamin.

Dr. Holick: So there’s no question that it’s a hormone. By definition, it’s a hormone. Hormone means that it’s made in your body and it has to travel someplace. And so the fact that when you’re exposed to sunlight and you make vitamin D in your skin automatically means it’s a hormone.

And then when you’re ingesting vitamin D from dietary sources, it has to go to your liver and get converted to 25-hydroxy vitamin D. And that turns out to be the major circulating form. And that’s what the doctor should order to determine a person’s vitamin D status. But it is not active. It then goes to the kidneys, and it gets activated to what you originally said, the 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D. And that then goes to your bone and to your intestine to regulate calcium and bone metabolism.

Dr. Hotze: So that’s why we mentioned earlier…in Dr. Holick’s comments he mentioned the term rickets. And explain to people what rickets is and what’s the cause of rickets.

Rickets 

Dr. Holick: Right. So rickets is a bone disease that typically is seen in children. And if you go on the internet, what you would typically see is a ricketic child being like two to three years of age, with bowed legs, and sometimes some projections along the rib cage. That’s because when you’re vitamin D deficient there’s an alteration in how the bone cells are maturing, and they can’t mineralize any of the collagen matrix that’s laid down. So there’s a lot of instability, especially in the lower legs. So as a child begins to walk, gravity is pushing down on them and the legs bow out.

It turns out that rickets, most people think it is incredibly uncommon, but it is actually pretty common. It’s just that we don’t appreciate it because you don’t see these overt signs. But we estimate, for example, that probably more than 50% of women in the United States who are taking a prenatal vitamin are vitamin D deficient at the time they’re giving birth, and therefore likely giving birth to infants that are vitamin D deficient, and probably have infantile rickets.

But we also know that when you have this so-called mineralization defect caused by vitamin D deficiency in your skeleton, this could also affect adults, but in a different way. Because you have now so much mineral in your bone that even if you have this so-called mineralization defect, you won’t have any skeletal abnormalities that are obvious.

However, unlike osteoporosis, which are holes in your bones that does not cause bone pain, vitamin D deficiency osteomalacia, which is adult rickets, causes global aches and pains in bones and muscles that is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia…

Stacey: Oh, interesting.

Dr. Holick: …syndrome, or even these patients are written off as being drug-seeking or crazy.

Dr. Hotze: Hypochondriacal, sure.

Well, vitamin D then is a hormone, rather than a vitamin. It’s a nutrient made by the body. And explain that process. And I think it would be very interesting for our listeners to understand that cholesterol plays a major role in the production of vitamin D. So cholesterol, rather than being dangerous and harmful, is an absolutely essential molecule made in the body, or sometimes consumed, that plays a significant role in your ability to produce vitamin D. Doctor, why don’t you visit with us about that.

Dr. Holick: Sure. So it turns out that your blood cholesterol has actually nothing to do with vitamin D synthesis in your skin. Your skin cell makes cholesterol. And that’s very important for the overall health and welfare of your skin.

But the precursor of cholesterol, 7-Dehydrocholesterol, is what absorbs ultraviolet B radiation, solar radiation that then converts it to pre-vitamin D3, which is thermally unstable and quickly converts to vitamin D. So it’s the precursor in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway that is responsible when absorbing sunlight to be made into vitamin D.

So one of the obvious questions might be, because a lot of people are on statins that inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis, so would it have any influence on vitamin D production in your skin? And the answer is no, because the skin, your epidermis, is a bloodless tissue. The statins don’t get there, and so your skin cells will be able to make this precursor of vitamin D and cholesterol without any problem.

Dr. Hotze: Very interesting. I was totally unaware of that. That’s a very interesting fact. So tell us then would it be correct to say it’s a steroid hormone?

Dr. Holick: So, yes. So just by definition, because it comes from a cholesterol-like molecule, that’s why they call it a steroid hormone, but to be completely accurate, you use the Greek term seco, S-E-C-O, which means to split. It turns out that vitamin D is a split steroid, or seco steroid.

Dr. Hotze: Well, tell me what benefits does vitamin D have on human health, besides the bone? And we recognize that’s very… 

Vitamin D and Pregnancy 

Dr. Holick: So basically, you need it from birth until death. And so we could start with pregnancy. So during pregnancy, we and others have reported that the most serious complication of pregnancy, preeclampsia, is associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Recently, a study out of South Carolina reported that gestational age is influenced by mom’s vitamin D status, that infants are born premature in moms that are vitamin D deficient. We also know that infants born of moms who are vitamin D deficient during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma and wheezing disorders in their first few years of life.

So early on, we urge pregnant women that they should be on 4,000 units of vitamin D a day. Their prenatal vitamin contains anywhere from 400 to 1,000 units. It’s totally inadequate to satisfy their requirement.

Vitamin D and Infants

Infants. A study was done in Finland back in the 1960s, when in Finland they worried about vitamin D deficiency because they’re so far north and don’t make very much vitamin D obviously in the wintertime. And they gave infants 2,000 units of vitamin D a day during their first year of life, followed them for 31 years, and during that 31 years that vitamin D protected them from getting type 1 diabetes – 88% reduced risk of getting type 1 diabetes for infants that were taking 2,000 units of vitamin D a day.

Stacey: Amazing.

Dr. Hotze: Now, was that-

Vitamin D Deficiency and Autoimmune Diseases

Dr. Holick: We also know that if you live above Atlanta, Georgia for the first 10 years of your life, you have a 100% increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis for the rest of your life, no matter where you live on this planet. And we think that vitamin D deficiency is a very important causative factor for increasing risk for autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, as well as Crohn’s Disease and even rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Hotze: What about autoimmune thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s?

Dr. Holick: Yes, as well. Correct.

Vitamin D and High Blood Pressure

And we recognize that teenagers…we did a study in African-American teens in Georgia with Dr. Dong, and we gave them simply either 400 units of vitamin D a day, or 2,000 units of vitamin D a day, for several months. And we looked at, by ultrasonography, their blood flow through their blood vessels.

And we could show that those African-American teens who raised their blood levels…normally they’re around 11 nanograms per mL. That’s considered to be deficient. Above 30 nanograms per mL, they had significant relaxation of the arterial blood flow. And that’s kind of the precursor for hypertension. For those teens that were only on 400 units, it had no impact on arterial blood flow. But vitamin D helped to cause vasorelaxation.

Dr. Hotze: What is-

Vitamin D Deficiency and Breast Cancer Risk

Dr. Holick: We also now recognize that vitamin D deficiency during early adulthood likely increases risks for many deadly and chronic illnesses later in life. And a good example was a study done in Canada, where they called up Canadian women who had breast cancer and asked the question, “How much sun exposure did you have as a teen and young adult?” And they called up the same number of women that didn’t have breast cancer. And they related that women that had the most sun exposure during their teenage years and young adult years reduced their risk of getting breast cancer by 69%.

A study done from the Nurses’ Health Study out of Harvard showed that nurses that had a blood level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, of around 50 nanograms per mL, that would require to take about 3,000 to 4,000 units of vitamin D a day, reduced their risk of getting breast cancer by about 50%.

Other Cancers

Other studies have shown dramatic reduction in risk for prostate cancer, colon cancer and a wide variety of cancers have all been associated with long-term vitamin D deficiency.

Type 2 Diabetes

We also know from the National Health Survey data that long-term calcium and vitamin D deficiency increases risk for type 2 diabetes. And that study showed a 33% relative risk reduction in adults who had consumed an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D through their lifetime.

Heart Attack Risk

There’s also very good evidence that people in the wintertime are more likely to have a heart attack. If you live at higher latitudes and you’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient, you have higher blood pressure.

And a study out of the Framingham Heart Study showed that those individuals that were vitamin D deficient, with a blood level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D of less than 15 nanograms per mL, had a 50% higher risk of having a heart attack. And if you had a heart attack and you were vitamin D deficient, you had a 100% increased risk of dying of that heart attack.

Vitamin D Deficiency and the Brain

We know that you have a vitamin D receptor in your brain, and there’s very good evidence that vitamin D can improve mood. Animal studies have shown that vitamin D will increase serotonin levels in the brain. It’s been associated, vitamin D deficiency, with increased risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and neurocognitive dysfunction.

Protects Immune System

And, finally, we know that the immune cells respond to vitamin D very well, and that your macrophages, those kind of Pac-Men and women that gobble up microorganisms…they went on to show that if you have an adequate blood level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, usually above 30 nanograms per mL, that these macrophages activate vitamin D for the purpose of getting that cell to set up mechanisms to kill any infectious agent that’s being ingested. And this has been confirmed by some studies.

A study out of New Haven, Connecticut reported that healthy adults, who maintained blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D of around 40 nanograms per mL, reduced their risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections by almost 50%.

And a study out of Japan showed that school children, who received 1,200 units a day just during the wintertime, reduced their risk of getting influenza A infection by more than 40%.

So that kind of gives you an appreciation for all of the health benefits of vitamin D.

Stacey: Absolutely.

Dr. Hotze: Yes. Here at the Hotze Health & Wellness Center, for decades we have promoted and advanced the use of vitamin D, because of your work and the work of others that we’ve read. And what we’ve found in most of our guests, the vast majority, probably an 80/20 rule, is that at least 80% of the people that we measure, their vitamin D levels are below 30 nanograms per mL. That’s down in the 20s.

It’s amazing and shocking really how low we find vitamin D levels. And this simply correlates to what your studies have shown too that, in America, most Americans are vitamin D deficient. And the reason is primarily because, frankly, most of us…we don’t get much sunlight in America. Why? I’m in my office all day.

Stacey: That’s right.

Dr. Hotze: I’m not outside. Now, there’s some methods, and I know you have written about this, about LED lighting, interior lighting and its benefit in helping people produce vitamin D. Can you talk about that?

Dr. Holick: Sure. But first what we should talk about is how can you take advantage of sensible sun exposure. Right? Because time of day, season, latitude, degree of skin pigmentation, they all influence vitamin D production. And that’s part of your problem.

So, for example, people think that in the summertime, if you go out in the early morning, like 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, and go jogging that you’re making all the vitamin D that you need, and it’s less damaging to your skin. Turns out, just the opposite. It’s actually the worst time to be out for your skin, and you essentially make no vitamin D.

We’ve done studies to show that basically you only make vitamin D from about 10 AM until about 3 PM, whether you live in Atlanta, whether you’re in Saudi Arabia, or whether you’re up here in Boston. It’s all about the same.

We also showed if you live above Atlanta, Georgia, you basically cannot make any vitamin D in your skin from about November, until around mid-March. And it all has to do with the angle of the sun. When the angle of the sun is more oblique, the vitamin D producing rays are absorbed by the ozone layer.

And so rule of thumb is that, if it’s sunny outside, and you’re standing, if your shadow is longer than you are, you know that that zenith angle is greater than 30 degrees, and as a result, you cannot make any vitamin D. 

Sunscreen Reduces Ability to Make Vitamin D

If you put a sunscreen on with an SPF of 30, it reduces your ability to make vitamin D in your skin by about 95%. African-Americans are at extremely high risk for vitamin D deficiency, because their skin pigment is a wonderful, natural sunscreen. So they need to be outside up to five to ten times longer, compared to a caucasian, to make the same amount of vitamin D.

So how to deal with this? There’s only one thing to do, which is to develop an app. And so working with Ontometics, we developed an app. Because we had been collecting data around the globe for time of day, and season, and vitamin D production.

App for Vitamin D Production

And if you use D-M-I-N-D-E-R dot I-N-F-O, that app is free on your Android and on your Apple iPad. It will tell you anywhere on this planet when you can make vitamin D, how much vitamin D you can make, and it tells you and warns you to get out of the sun so you don’t get a sunburn.

Stacey: That’s fascinating. Do you mind repeating that one more time for our audience?

Dr. Holick: Sure. So dminder. So D-M-I-N, as in nickel, D-E-R dot I-N-F-O.

Stacey: Dminder.info. Okay, perfect.

Tanning Beds

Dr. Holick: Yep. And so you’re right. It turns out that even though I don’t advocate tanning, for those that wish to do it, I usually recommend they do it responsibly. And most tanning beds put out the vitamin D producing rays.

And we actually did a study in tanners, in Boston in the wintertime, and showed that they had robust healthy levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, averaged about 48 nanograms per mL. And we compared them to adults of the same sex and age. And their levels were about 18 nanograms per mL at the end of the winter.

LED Lighting

And so we recently reported that what if you could tune an LED to put out UV radiation, specifically to make vitamin D? Could it be done? And if it could be done, how effective is it? And how effective is it, relative to sunlight?

And so we published a paper, just recently, in Scientific Report, and showed that, yes, you can tune an LED to put out radiation that specifically makes vitamin D, and we demonstrated that it’s three times more efficient than sunlight, which means that it basically is three times, not only more effective, but also improves the risk of skin cancer by about 300% reduced risk for having DNA damage in your skin because it’s so efficient in producing vitamin D.

Dr. Hotze: So you talk about conquering health problems in America, all of us who are living and working indoors most of the time, when we’re not out in the sun as part of our work, what if we had this natural light in all the buildings? What kind of health impact would that have on the country?

Dr. Holick: It’s a very good question. And I’ve been asked this question. And some engineers at Comby were thinking about this. I mean, the best way to do this potentially would be to have it in your shower. Right? Because, I mean, that’s a great place where you’re naked and your whole body is exposed.

Dr. Hotze: Yeah, sure. You’re buck-naked and you get whole body exposure.

Dr. Holick: Yeah. The problem with it being indoor lighting is that it can increase risk for cataracts, because of the UVB. And so you can’t use it in a general office setting, or even in a home setting, without having some kind of eye protection.

Dr. Hotze: That’s interesting.

Dr. Holick: That’s why the LED system that we’re in the process of raising funds for to develop is that our system…the game plan is that an LED, about the size of a piece of paper that you would simply apply on your thigh or your abdomen, turn it on for a minute or two, make all your vitamin D that will last you probably for two to three days. And that’s it. And it doesn’t cause any problems, because you’re applying it directly to your skin so it has no impact on your eyes.

Dr. Hotze: Now, doctor, while you have written prolifically about vitamin D, explain to me why most physicians don’t recommend this on a regular basis, in a supplement form, to their patients.

Dr. Holick: It’s a good question. And part of the problem is that I think that physicians are always looking for the latest and greatest medicine out there. And vitamin D…I mean, come on. It’s a vitamin. How can it have all these beneficial effects? But what is remarkable is that, over the past decade or so, there really has been a marked increase-

Dr. Hotze: There has been.

Dr. Holick: …of awareness by physicians. And the ordering of the measurement for 25-hydroxy vitamin D, which is measuring your vitamin D status, is the most ordered assay by doctors in the United States.

Dr. Hotze: That’s interesting.

Dr. Holick: So it is getting people’s attention. And it’s really coming mainly from people like you and the lay press that are talking about all the health benefits.

So the patient would go to their physician and say, “Please get me my blood level.” And the doctor would say, “Why do I need to do that?” And probably the answer would be, “No.” But patients persist, and finally the doctor gives in and gets it. And now the doc’s got religion. And now the doctor’s ordering it on all their patients.

So it is becoming better known by doctors. And what we recommend is that it’s very costly to be measuring everybody’s blood level, and then following up to know that you’ve corrected their vitamin D deficiency and that you worry about toxicity.

So we did a study several years ago and published it. And we showed that we took all comers, coming to my clinic. And even though we had the blood, we didn’t measure their blood level. We put them on an equivalent of about 4,000 units of vitamin D a day, for six years, and showed that whether they were vitamin D deficient or even sufficient, that 4,000 units of vitamin D a day maintained healthy, robust levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, and there was no toxicity.

Dr. Hotze: After six years, what sort of blood levels were you seeing?

Dr. Holick: Right. So what the Endocrine Society practice guidelines recommends…And I chaired that committee, and all the members on that committee were experts in various areas of pediatric, and adult, and geriatric vitamin D. We recommended a minimum blood level for maximum bone health is 30 nanograms per mL. Minimum. But you should be in the range of at least 40 to 60 nanograms per mL, up to 100 is perfectly safe, and above 150 is only when you begin to worry about toxicity.

Stacey: Oh, okay

Vitamin D3 Dosage Recommendations 

Dr. Hotze: So your recommendation then, as a physician, for an individual not having done a blood test, they would benefit from taking how many international units of vitamin D? And it should be D3, right?

Dr. Holick: Right. No, and it turns out we could talk about that as well. But my recommendation, at a minimum for children, should be 1,000 units of vitamin D a day. Because the upper limit, even recommended by the Endocrine Society, is 2,000 units a day. So it’s not a problem

For teenagers, should be treated like adults, a minimum should be 2,000 units a day, preferably 4,000 to 5,000 units a day.

I personally take 5,000 units every day. My blood level is 62 nanograms per mL.

If you’re obese, the vitamin D, which is fat soluble, dilutes in your body fat. And as a result, you need two to three times more to satisfy that requirement. So they may need up to 10,000 units of vitamin D a day.

And so my recommendation for all of my patients is to be on 4,000 to 5,000 units a day. And if you’re obese, probably about 8,000 to 10,000 units of vitamin D a day, and not have to worry about measuring blood levels.

Dr. Hotze: And so what form of vitamin D do you recommend?

Dr. Holick: Right. So you probably are aware that the doctor often will write a prescription, and it’s vitamin D2. And a couple of years ago, a paper came out to say that vitamin D2 is much less effective, and more importantly, what really got people’s attention was they said that vitamin D2 destroyed the vitamin D3. And at the time, I believed that, until we did now three studies. And we compared physiologic doses of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 in healthy adults, and showed that they worked exactly the same.

So why does vitamin D2 exist? Because vitamin D2 pre-dates the FDA, and it was grandfathered by the FDA. It’s the only pharmaceutical available to physicians to order for their patients. However, the supplement manufacturers have caught on, and so they will provide 50,000 units vitamin D3 to the pharmacies and to the hospitals that can be used.

Most of them are probably fine. The problem is, you don’t know which manufacturer is providing it. You don’t know the quality. And so I have all of my patients on vitamin D2, and it works, in my opinion, very well to maintain their vitamin D status. And obviously for vegans, vitamin D2 is preferred.

Dr. Hotze: Okay. Tell me about vitamin D3 as a supplement.

Dr. Holick: So vitamin D3 as a supplement is fine. I mean, we’ve done multiple studies with vitamin D3. And, like I said, I personally take 5,000 units of vitamin D3 a day. And I happen, because I promote it, is that there’s a company in Alaska that gets the vitamin D from wild caught salmon. It’s a great natural source. And they also have it in the form with omega fatty acids coming from wild caught salmon. And that’s what I take every day. A total of 5,000 units

Dr. Hotze: And I take about-

Stacey: More.

Dr. Hotze: …10,000. I take 10,000 to 15,000 every day, and have done for a number of years. And my blood levels all are somewhere between 70 and 90 usually.

Dr. Holick: Yeah, and totally expected. There was a study that I participated in with the Pure North Group, up in Canada. And what they did was that they interviewed people that were taking vitamin D, up to 20,000 units of vitamin D a day, for years. And we measured their blood levels. And they’re just like you, in the range of 60 to 100 nanograms per mL. We looked at their blood calcium, and their urine calcium, any evidence of toxicity. There was none. So you’re right-

Stacey: Does the body just adjust to that, over time? Is that why?

Dr. Holick: Say that again.

Stacey: Well, does your body adjust to those levels if it gets used to taking like 15,000 IUs or 20,000 IUs? Does it just adjust over time?

Dr. Holick: Yeah. It turns out that two things are going on. The first is that often people think that when their doctor orders a blood test, and it’s really, really low, that they need to take much higher doses to be able to get their blood level up. Turns out, not true. Turns out that the body isn’t stupid, and it knows it needs vitamin D.

So there are four different enzymes in your liver that convert vitamin D to 25-hydroxy vitamin D. So when you’re severely deficient, and you take a small amount, you will rapidly raise your blood level in the range from about 5 to 15 nanograms per mL. But once you get to around 20 nanograms per mL, you only begin to raise your blood level by about one nanogram per mL, per hundred units. When you start to get near around 40 to 50 nanograms per mL, now you need almost 500 to 1,000 units to begin to raise your blood levels. So patients that are on 10,000, or 15,000, or 20,000 units of vitamin D only get a very small additional bump in their 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.

Stacey: That makes sense. 

Dr. Holick: Yeah. So, yeah, the body has nothing to do with…and what’s also interesting about vitamin D, that we don’t understand at all and kind of defies imagination, is that if you go on 1,000 units of vitamin D, it’s very predictable that your blood level will be at around 25 to 28 nanograms per mL. And when you stay on 1,000 units, you would think that eventually it would continue gradually to rise. No, it will stay there. If you go on 4,000 or 5,000 units a day, it goes up to around 50 to 60, and it just simply stays there. You reach equilibration after two months on a stable dose of vitamin D.

Dr. Hotze: Well, you had mentioned about toxicity too. And, of course, it rankles me so much when I hear conventional physicians talk about, “Well, you could get hypovitaminosis. You take those vitamins, you’re either urinating them out or they can cause you health problems.” When you and I both know in conventional medicine the terrible and detrimental side effects of most of the pharmaceutical drugs that are present cause a host of health problems.

I like to make a point about pharmaceuticals, that pharmaceutical drugs are all toxins. They have to be detoxified by the liver. I learned that my first year in medical school, taking pharmacology. And you only have to detoxify a toxin. So they cause a toxic load on the body. While they may mask a symptom or correct a blood level of some sort, they do have alternative and oftentimes harmful and serious side effects, which we know about if you just watch TV and listen to the last 15 seconds of the ad. And you know that these are toxic because they can cause a host of problems.

Can too much vitamin D be toxic?

Whereas, a nutrient, such as vitamin D, the toxicity levels I’ve read…now, you tell me, because you’re the pro on this. I’ve read where you could take 200,000 tablets of 1,000 units of vitamin D before you’d have to worry about any toxicity.

Dr. Holick: Right. So you’re right. So vitamin D toxicity is one of the most rarest medical conditions in the world. And the reason vitamin D toxicity became so concerning was for two observations. One was made in the 1940s, where they started giving patients with rheumatoid arthritis massive doses of vitamin D, like hundreds of thousands of units a day. And they actually showed some benefit. And so they thought that they were doing these patients some good, until they realized, six months or year later, that they developed high blood calcium. So that’s one of the indicators.

The problem when you have a high blood calcium, you could begin starting to calcify your kidneys, causing kidney failure, and your blood vessels, causing cardiovascular problems. So then they stopped it. The problem was that the vitamin D is fat-soluble, and it’s in their body fat. And so it would take years for it to be depleted out of their body before they could become normal.

The second observation that got physicians’ attention was in early 1950s. If you go to Europe, for example, in the UK, milk is not fortified with vitamin D. In fact, it’s against the law to fortify anything, including even skin cream, with vitamin D in many countries throughout the world.

The reason is that back in the early ’50s, presented some children with high blood calcium. And they brought in the experts. And the experts didn’t have a clue, but they recalled, after reading the literature, that if you give pregnant rodents massive doses of vitamin D, that their pups have funny, altered faces, and they have high blood calcium, and they have problems with their heart. Well, it turns out that that’s exactly what these infants had in Great Britain.

And so the experts put what they thought was two and two together, and concluded, even though they had no evidence for this, that somehow because they couldn’t measure the vitamin D content in fortified food, because in Europe, custard, and milk, and most foodstuffs were fortified vitamin D, they instantly banned vitamin D.

Turns out, those children likely had a rare genetic disorder called Williams Syndrome, which is associated with altered faces, called elfin faces, hypersensitivity to vitamin D, causing high blood calcium, and having heart problems.

So it was those two incidents that we learned in medical school. And all doctors have learned that vitamin D is one of the most toxic fat-soluble vitamins. But it turns out, just the opposite.

And I’ll just give you two examples. The first is that I got a phone call from a lawyer in Florida. And he was severely intoxicated. And he was upset with me, because back in the ’90s, when I had already been recommending to increase your vitamin D intake to reduce risks for prostate cancer of 2,000 units a day, that he wanted to do it. But back then, there were no vitamin D supplements available in any pharmacy. Nobody cared about vitamin D.

So he went on the Internet, and he bought a product called Pro-Longevity. And on the product it said that there’s 1,000 units in a teaspoon. So he took two teaspoons a day, for over a year. And he came into the hospital with a high blood calcium, and it was severely toxic. So I told him, “Look, send the stuff up. We’ll do an analysis for you.” And I did. Turns out, the company forgot to dilute it. He was taking two teaspoons of pure crystalline vitamin D, a million units a day, for a year.

Stacey:  Oh, my gosh.

Dr. Holick: Okay? So that will cause toxicity. So then he calls me back, and he says he wants me to be his doctor. And I told him, “Look, no glucocorticoids, no anything. Just stop your vitamin D. Make sure you wear a sun protection.” And we published him in the New England Journal of Medicine and showed that he was perfectly fine, that he had no sequelae.

There was another study that we published, where there is a nutrition guru that decided to have his own vitamin D. And so he contacted the company, and they started making it. He took it, and all of his very wealthy clients took it. They all became vitamin D toxic. And I got the phone call, and they said, “Would you like to analyze the product?” And I did. The company didn’t realize the difference between microgram and milligram.

Dr. Hotze: Oh, my goodness.

Dr. Holick: So they had a thousand times…so they were taking, instead of 4,000 units a day, which is what I recommend, they were taking 4 million units a day.

Stacey: Oh, those poor people.

Dr. Holick: That would cause intoxication. But, again, as soon as they stopped, and they remained hydrated, there was basically no sequelae from that.

Dr. Hotze: Well, so that dispels the myth about serious toxicity with vitamin D. I’ve heard it said that worrying about vitamin D toxicity is like worrying about drowning when you’re in a desert and dying of thirst.

Dr. Holick: That’s about right, but also for those that have a granulomatous disorder…I mean, even though that’s a mouthful. So like sarcoid, or some type of fungal infections-

Dr. Hotze: Tuberculosis?

Dr. Holick: …if you have that type of disorder, you should talk to your doctor, because they are hypersensitive to vitamin D.

Dr. Hotze: Well, Dr. Holick, this has been a most fascinating, interesting and educational conversation.

Stacey:  Absolutely.

Dr. Hotze: And I want to just congratulate you on becoming the world expert on vitamin D, and the wonderful work you’ve done, and how you have begun to influence many conventional doctors to realizing the health benefits they could provide their patients with vitamin D. And it’s amazing, think about the number of potential diseases that could be prevented if people took proper vitamin D supplementation, and they wouldn’t need to be placed upon all these drugs, which make them more toxic.

Stacey: That’s what makes it such an important podcast. So, Dr. Holick, if people want to find out more about you, and your writings, your work, where do they go?

Dr. Holick: Sure. So just go to DrHolick.com, or go to the app. And in there, is also the website. So just D-R-

Stacey: The dminder.info?

Dr. Holick: Yeah. Dminder.info, or D-R-H-O-L-I-C-K dot com.

Stacey:  One “L” in Holick? Okay.

Dr. Holick: Yep.

Dr. Hotze: Or just go to Amazon and get his book, The Vitamin D Solution, by Dr. Michael Holick. That’s H-O-L-I-C-K. Well, doctor, congratulations again on your success. Thank you for sharing this valuable information with us today.

Dr. Holick: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on, and have a delightful day.

Dr. Hotze: Thank you, sir.

Stacey: Yes, you too, sir.

Dr. Holick: Bye-bye.

Dr. Hotze: Bye, now.

Stacey: So I’m sure that a lot of you are very interested in how you can get high quality vitamin D. And I do want to let you know that it’s very easy to order it from Hotze Vitamins. We do carry it. We can vouch for its quality. A vitamin is not a vitamin is not a vitamin, so you know where to go to supplement there. And so much good information there, Dr. Hotze.

So it’s an absolutely fascinating segment. I always learn something more about vitamin D each day. So what do you do? You can go to HotzeVitamins.com to order your supply of vitamin D. That’s Hotze, H-O-T-Z-E, vitamins dot com, or you can call 1-800-579-6545. That’s 1-800-579-6545.

It is always a pleasure to have you here, each and every time, for Dr. Hotze’s Wellness Revolution. Have a blessed day.

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