Fuck Supplements: The Vitamin D edition

From Scientific American:

“Physicians have recommended vitamin D supplements to their patients for a decade, with good reason: dozens of studies have shown a correlation between high intake of vitamin D—far higher than most people would get in a typical diet and from exposure to the sun—and lower rates of chronic diseases, such as cancer and type 1 diabetes. So when the Institute of Medicine, which advises the government on health policy, concluded in November that vitamin D supplements were unnecessary for most Americans and potentially harmful, patients were understandably confused.”

Here’s a link to the IOM’s study.

As always I think the larger issues around supplementation are:

  • How did we evolve to get these nutrients naturally?
  • Are we getting the correct molecular form of these nutrients? Most “vitamins” are actually large families of nutrient molecules, not a single thing.
  • Are we adequately absorbing and using these nutrients — again, the way nature intended?
  • Where did the supplements come from? Supplements are often synthesized from things like coal tar. We’re not just shrinking a head of kale into a capsule here. Make no mistake: Supplements are generally products of industrial chemistry.

Vitamin D is a particularly interesting debate, as it is a substance that is not widely available in food. We evolved to get the bulk of D from the sun, not food. Vitamin D status has been shown to be an important factor in chronic disease. Many of us live in climates where there is not year-round optimal sun.

It’s a conundrum. So what to do?

Well, first, the question is: How did prehistoric peoples in northern climes get vitamin D?

Second, where does the modern D deficiency really come from?

If you think about modern food intakes and life, could it be that other factors in our diet are hampering our absorption? Could our mole-like cubicle existence be problematic?

Is supplementation, in short, taking an Advil for the headache while we continue to whack ourselves in the skull with a hammer?