You Have No Idea How Important Vitamin D is Early in Life!

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06/05/2015
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Scott:  We're with Dr. James Dowd, the author of "The Vitamin D Cure."  You've touched a little bit on some of the illnesses and conditions that can be related to vitamin D deficiency. Talk some more about those, you mentioned a whole host of them in your book, and what are some of the more common that you see?

Dr. James Dowd:  So, the common conditions, and it's easy to remember these common conditions that are associated with vitamin D deficiency, are what I call the five M's. Okay?  

Let's start with muscle and bone, because that's the one that most of us are familiar with.  So, vitamin D is very important in building bone mass, particularly during late fetal development, second and third trimester, and throughout childhood.  

And a whole host of studies have come out now showing that if your bone mass is low early in childhood, your risk for low bone mass stays with you as you age.  Meaning, osteoporosis, which we think of as a disease of elderly patients, may actually start in childhood, by just not saving up enough bone. You can think of your skeleton as an IRA, a retirement account, and you've got your first 20 years of life or so to fill that account up and then it's got to last the rest of your life.  And if you don't fill it up, you start behind the eight ball.  So, bone is very critical, it's dependent on vitamin D for optimizing bone mass.

Muscle, not something we typically think of as something important related to vitamin D, but studies show in elderly populations that deficient patients are weaker.  hey have less grip strength, they have less quadricep strength, they have less balance and coordination. They have these sit and stand tests where you sit in a chair, you walk 20 feet, you turn around, you come back, you sit down. And you can time this, and when they do this in elderly patients who are vitamin D deficient, it takes them a lot longer to do that than when their vitamin D level is normal. We see more hip fractures in patients because of this instability and falls. So, muscle and bone are important when it comes to vitamin D.

Scott:  When you talk about muscle and bone, I think its interesting, and most I don't think know this, how important it is early in life to establish that.  Most of us as young kids and teenagers aren't probably eating well and doing the things that we should, but that's when it's most important.

Dr. James Dowd:  Yeah, I try to emphasize that in the book because I was trained, also, as a pediatrician, so I'm an adult and pediatric rheumatologist. Is the importance of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an anabolic hormone. You think about anabolic and canabolic hormones. Anabolic hormones, we all think about the sports on TV and people abusing human growth hormone and testosterone and these sorts of things. 

Well, I was talking with a friend of mine, vitamin D was actually used early on, probably in the 40s, maybe even earlier, as an anabolic steroid for Olympic athletes. In eastern block countries, they thought, okay, this stuff is important for bone and muscle and no one is looking for it, so maybe we can just tank our athletes up with vitamin D and we'll have an advantage.  So, there was some thoughts that it might have that. 

Now, certain not as effective as human growth hormone and testosterone in those respects, but it still is a weak androgen, and so, as an androgen combined with all the other growth hormones that we have during childhood and we're building bone and muscle mass, growing, it plays a facilitative role in accomplishing all those tasks.  And when it's not there, things are not optimized. Okay?

Scott: Okay.

Dr. James Dowd: And that places us at greater risk for things like osteoporosis at the other end, and probably osteoarthritis at the end. Because what we know now is that osteoarthritis is probably more of a bone disease than a joint disease. Yes, you're cartilage is deteriorating, but it's deteriorating because the foundation it sits on, your bone, is not healthy. And so, unhealthy bone laid down in the beginning, it's like building a house. You build a lousy foundation, I don't care how expensive the materials are above ground, if the foundation is rotten, you're going to have problems later on. And that's exactly how I think of the effects of vitamin D early in childhood on consequence of disease later in life.

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Dr. James Dowd discusses the relationship between vitamin D and bone and muscle health. He explains the importance of getting enough in the early years of life. Find out why it's so crucial and what may happen down the road if you don't get sufficient amounts as you're growing.
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