• Barbara Johnson, MD

Why Almost Everyone has Low Vitamin D Levels.

Updated: Feb 10


Overview:

Vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone and not a vitamin and has multiple roles in the body.

  • Maintains the health of bones and teeth.

  • Supports the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system.

  • Regulates insulin levels and aid in diabetic management.

  • Supports lung function and cardiovascular health.

  • Influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development.

The recommendation for adequate Vitamin D exposure is sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week. Previous studies have shown that this should provide enough sun exposure to produce sufficient vitamin D. But environment toxins have reduced our ability to use the vitamin D from the sun. To ensure optimal health, consider checking your vitamin D and toxicity levels. If either is abnormal, you should consider a program to help eliminate these toxins and boost vitamin D levels.

The Health Concern:

For most people, getting adequate sun exposure will not increase vitamin D levels to optimal levels (between 50-80). Environmental toxins are playing a very important role.

The Research:

A 2016 study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism revealed how endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like BPA reduce levels of Vitamin D in the bloodstream. This study was particularly powerful for an EDC called phthalates. All EDCs are chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that can cause adverse health effects by interfering with hormones in the body. Phthalates are found in women’s cosmetics, hairspray, deodorants, lotions, perfumes, children’s products, food packaging, medical tubing and etc. All perfumes and scented products contain phthalates. (Read more about Phthalates here.)

The study examined data from 4,667 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2010. NHANES is an on-going cross-sectional study designed to collect health and nutrition data from a sample of adults across the United States.

This was the first study to investigate environmental exposure to phthalates and total Vitamin D, although vitamin D has been investigated in relation to BPA in previous NHANES studies. The findings remain consistent. Furthermore, the degree of reduction of vitamin D levels due to environmental exposure to phthalates was sex specific, with stronger associations found in women.

“The widespread use of these chemicals coupled with the essential role that vitamin D plays in numerous physiological processes in our bodies could mean that the public health implications of these findings may be quite large,” said Professor John D. Meeker, MS, ScD, senior author of the study.

“Nearly every person on the planet is exposed to BPA and another class of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, so the possibility that these chemicals even slightly reduce vitamin D levels has widespread implications for public health,” said the study’s first author, Lauren Johns, MPH, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, MI. “Vitamin D plays a broad role in maintaining bone and muscle health. In addition, low vitamin D levels have been implicated in outcomes of numerous conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.”

The mechanisms underlying how EDCs act on vitamin D levels in the endocrine system remain largely unknown, but these researchers and others suggest that one possibility is by directly acting on the metabolic enzymes involved in converting inactive vitamin D pro-hormones to their circulating metabolites. “It is also possible that phthalates and BPA may indirectly influence circulating vitamin D concentrations through the disruption of calcium homeostasis. BPA in particular has been shown to alter the expression of proteins involved in calcium signaling processes as well as serum calcium levels,” Johns says.

The Plan:

  • Continuing to get sun exposure is very important, but to achieve the full benefit try to remove as many EDCs and especially phthalate containing products as possible. A great start is to ditch the perfume and scented products. Work on replacing all of your personal care products with organic ones.

  • Check your serum Vitamin D level. You want your levels to be between 50-80

  • The Johnson Center can check your levels of EDC’s including phthalates and devise a plan that will keep your body in a healthy state so that you naturally detox every daily. A healthy body with optimally working detoxification pathways can remove and eliminate most EDCs.


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