Form of Vitamin D

The way vitamin D is made, stored, and utilized in our bodies is unique. That dreaded but marvelous substance, cholesterol, forms the base of a derivative that resides in the fat cells just under the skin. When skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, this derivative is transformed to D3. Diet-derived D2 and D3 each undergo changes in the liver and the kidneys to form both a non-active storage form of the vitamin and the active form (1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D). In many tissues of our bodies, there are receptors for both forms.

The active form of vitamin D is a steroid, which puts it in a class with other steroids, such as hormones. Since we can get our vitamin D from sources other than diet, some say it is not a vitamin. But if the sun doesn’t shine or we avoid sun exposure by clothing, occupation, or sun block lotions, we must have a dietary source. In latitudes north of San Francisco or south of Buenos Aires, Argentina, UV radiation is very feeble for at least six months of the year. Natural food sources, except for the fish liver oils, are relatively meager.

We are left with the commercial D3 and D2 forms that don’t seem all that attractive when we learn how they are made. Animal skins are treated with organic solvents that extract the cholesterol derivative (7-dehydrocholesterol, the same precursor that resides under our skin), which is then exposed to UV radiation to form D3. D2, said to be derived from plant or “food” sources, occurs naturally in some yeasts and fish, but most of it is obtained from UV radiation of cholesterol derivatives in foods like milk,. Cholesterol extracted from the lanolin of sheep wool, after going through many chemical processes and UV radiation, can generate D2. D3 has greater activity than D2, but both are still in use. The large-dose vitamin D in use now, as a readily available supplement, is the D3 form.

Uses of Vitamin D

The most well known use of the active form of vitamin D, 1,25 D, is its role in bone metabolism. Our bones are a reservoir for calcium, which has many more essential functions than just bone metabolism. If calcium intake is inadequate, or if absorption is poor, the calcium blood level will fall. If the fall is too severe, terrible consequences ensue (tetany, death). Help comes in the form of a hormone released from the parathyroid glands that activates 1,25 D. This reaction quickly relieves the low blood calcium problem, but the calcium is taken from the bone reservoir. The parathyroid hormone also allows enhanced absorption of calcium from the gut, in conjunction with vitamin D. While it causes bone breakdown, it also stimulates the production of bone cells (osteoblasts) to provide new bone growth. This entire metabolic loop is designed as a stop-gap measure and cannot be kept in place for the long term, because the parathyroid glands will continually put out too much hormone and bones will deteriorate. The loop makes it hard to achieve toxic levels, since reserve components of the vitamin are activated only as needed.

Fortunately, long before the mechanism of vitamin D metabolism was understood, doctors and nutrition scientists gave sound prevention-oriented advice. Consequently, we didn’t see rickets. It seems that a long period of complacency followed, without reminders of the grave consequences of vitamin D deficiency. Neither did we have an understanding of vitamin D receptors in the any tissues other than bone. Vitamin D, attached to these receptors, regulates genes responsible for the health of the target organ. Some infants with rickets have heart failure that can be successfully treated and should have been prevented with vitamin D. Besides heart muscle, deficiency affects skeletal muscle and the immune system. Antioxidant production involved in quelling free radical production seems to parallel vitamin D production from the skin. For the last few years it seems a new sue for this “cure-all” vitamin turns up every week. Are these finds new or have they just been ignored for decades?








USANA‘s Vitamin D supplement is made with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), which research suggests is better than competing forms at raising levels of vitamin D in the blood. The most important forms are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The latter is the form normally found in humans and is also the form used in USANA’s Vitamin D supplement.

The New Vegetarians

Whether it’s to save the earth, money or their waistlines, more Americans are cutting back on meat. Should you elevate vegetables from sidekick to leading role? Here’s all you need to know to make meatless eating work for you.

Vegetarianism is having a moment

When former President Bill Clinton showed up to daughter Chelsea’s wedding looking slim and trim, he credited his strict vegetarian diet for his transformation. Meanwhile, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres recently gave up animal products, publicly declaring herself a vegan.

These two high-profit Americans have plenty of company in the meatless movement. Sure, countless others still hold onto childhood Brussels sprout biases; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 26.3 percent of adults eat vegetables three or more times per day. But signs suggest that the number of herbivores in the U.S. is on the rise. For example, last November the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics issued its first-eve guidelines for dietitians who are counseling vegetarians. With efforts like Meatless Mondays, a campaign to cut meat consumption to improve personal and environmental health, gaining momentum, nearly 20 percent of households are eating more meatless meals, reports the Food Marketing Institute. Some cite saving money as the primary driver, but most say they’re cutting down on meat to improve their health.

Scaling back on meat won’t necessarily net you better health or a svelte body. And let’s be clear: Going meatless won’t miraculously melt off extra pounds. However, swapping plant -based foods for animal-based ones will often save you calories and fat grams, and may make meeting your goal weight easier. In general, vegetarians weigh 3 to 20 percent less than meat eaters, according to an analysis published in Nutrition Reviews. What’s more, other studies link a well-planned vegetarian diet with a lower BMI and a wealth of health benefits, including reducer risks for cancer and chronic disease. The emphasis here is on the phrase “well-planned”. If you end up substituting meat with high fat options like cheese, your health bonuses are nil.

With that, here’s some freshly picked info for exploring the veggie landscape in a way that’s healthy and delicious.

Get what you need

Afraid you won’t get enough nutrients if you cut out meat? Most lifelong carnivores feel they need meat and other animal products for god nutrition, but that’s not the case. You can get key nutrients (and promote good health) from these plant-based sources.

Nutrient: Plant-based sources
Protein: Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, nut butters, peas, whole grains and soy-based products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers)
Iron: Fortified cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, soy products, whole wheat breads and peas.
Omega-3s: Flax and other plant sources provide some, but not enough; if you don’t’ eat fish, consider an algae-derived DHA supplement.
Calcium: Fortified soymilk, cereals and orange juice; tofu made with calcium sulfate; dried beans and peas; nuts; seeds; some greens.
Vitamin D: Fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms (especially mushrooms treated with UV light, available in supermarkets), fortified cereals.

So you call yourself a Vegetarian?

The vegetarian spectrum runs the gamut from those who eat meat occasionally to raw foodists who will not consume anything cooked above certain temps. Below, a veggie glossary, from least to most extreme.

Flexatarian (Semi-vegetarian): Eats mostly plant-based foods; occasionally eats animal products as well as fish, poultry or meat.

Pollo-vegetarian: Eats poultry, such as chicken, turkey and duck.

Pescetarian: Eats fish and seafood, but no meat.

Lacto-ovo Vegetarian: Eats dairy products and eggs.

Lacto Vegetarian: Eats dairy products.

Classic Vegetarian: Eats diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts; no meat, poultry or fish.

Vegan: Follows a strict vegetarian diet that excludes animal-derived products like butter.

Raw Foodist: Eats no plant-based foods heated above 115 to 118 degrees.

Seasonal Transitions

As spring peeks over the horizon, birds practice their song and plants shake off the frost. Join them in celebrating the season with these tips for a healthy spring.

  • While pollen drifting into your home can churn up allergy symptoms, interior allergens may be more to blame. Start by replacing all your pillows — some experts contend that after 5 years up to 10% of the weight can be attributed to body ash, bacteria, mold, fungi, and dust mites. Invest in allergen covers for your new head cushions and wash cases at least once a week in hot water.
  • As the days gradually lengthen, more sunshine pours through your windows. Use the extra daylight as an excuse to wake up a little earlier. Studies suggest that early birds tend to be healthier than night owls. Try a morning walk to get your heart pumping and expose you to vital vitamin D.
  • Slip on those gardening gloves and get dirty. Not only does tending to your landscape engage your body — burning up to 350 calories an hour — research shows it can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Plus, pruning your yard exposes you to earthy elements… a healthy array of microbes that challenge your immune system to get stronger.

The Importance of Calcium for Children

Here is the big problem – soda has displaced milk. Calcium deficiency is not likely to be a frequent problem until school age. It is well known that breast milk and cow’s milk formulas are both good food sources. Unless the source is not available, or there is an absorption or allergy problem, we should not worry about our normal children until they enter the “pop” age. Sodas can displace milk intake at far too early an age. Many teenagers and young parents may think of milk as being the stuff for little kids and may substitute juice or water for milk if they are convinced that soda is bad.

Adolescence is the time to build bones. The issue of calcium intake is something very important to think about, especially for girls in their teens. This is the time when the good bones of women in their forties and fifties are being predetermined. For a growing child over five years old, recommendations vary from 800-1,200 mg of calcium per day.

Dairy products are still a good calcium source, and cultured dairy is especially good. For example, 1.5 ounces of hard cheese provides 300 mg of calcium, the same as 8 ounces of milk or yogurt. Cultured milk products, such as buttermilk and yogurt, have many health advantages. And low-fat yogurt (low- not non-, since some fat is needed for the good bacteria to feast on) weights in at 415 mg per 8 ounces (over a third better than plain milk). Another ready source is 300 mg of any common calcium-based (usually calcium carbonate) antacid. If the daily recommendation is not met by the end of the day, take a tablet containing 300 mg after dinner. When the diet is heavy in acid-forming meat and other protein sources and light in alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables, more calcium is used to neutralize urine and lost from the body, leaving less for bone metabolism. Along with adequate vitamin D and exercise, calcium issued more efficiently and not as much is needed.

Other sources do not come up to the level of milk products, but coupled with other lifestyle factors they may prove adequate. These are: sardines (91 mg in two little ones, soft bones and all), sunflower seeds (4 ounces contains 33 mg of calcium but a whopping 100 mg of magnesium, half the daily requirement), and leafy green vegetables (10 ounces of raw spinach contains 202 mg calcium and half a cup of boiled has 139 mg but is relatively heavy in magnesium at 65 mg). Peanuts and dried beans offer much less calcium but are a moderately good source of magnesium. Soybeans deserve a special dispensation in that, depending on how they are prepared, they are relatively abundant in both calcium and magnesium. A half-cup of raw, firm tofu yields 258 mg of calcium and 118 mg of magnesium. A half-cup of dry roasted soybeans yields 232 mg of calcium and 196 mg of magnesium, which meets the daily requirement. Other sources of calcium and magnesium include almonds, whole grains, and figs. (We have given magnesium values at the same time as those for calcium because magnesium is required to aid the metabolism of calcium).

How to protect yourself from the sun

Some exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is necessary for the body to produce vitamin D. Overexposure can have harmful side effects, particularly in fair-skinned people who produce only small amounts of melanin, the protective pigment in the skin.

Doctors recommend that people wear sunscreen whenever they go out in the sun for a long period of time, especially during midday hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hats help to shield your face and neck from much of the sun, but a sunscreen should always be worn. Most sunscreens, including the very common para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), work by absorbing ultraviolet rays. There are also sunscreens available with titanium dioxide; these reflect the sun’s rays altogether.

There are some suntanning lotions and oils that do not contain any type of sunscreen in them. These will not protect your skin against sunburn or skin cancer. The most effective sunscreen products include a sun protection factor (SPF).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says sunscreens with an SPF from 15 to 30 are the most effective. After 30, there is some protective difference but it is very small. For example, increasing SPF from 30 to 50 increases protection by only 1 to 2 percent. Recommendations from the American Cancer Society say that a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 is the the most effective and most available to the public.

For children under the age of two, the FDA advises parents use sunscreen products with a minimum of SPF 15. Many doctors also recommend that infants under the age of six months should stay out of the sun completely.

Once you have a tan, a sunscreen with a lower SPF can be used. Also, take note of whether the sunscreen is waterproof or not. One trip in the water could wash off all of your protection against cancer.

The ozone layer shields the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Researchers say the ozone layer has been eaten away by the mix of volcanic gases and manmade compounds. At the 1993 World Meteorological Organization meeting, researchers noted ozone levels had dropped over Northern Europe, Russia and Canada in tremendous amounts over the previous three years. Those levels continue to drop.

Ozone depletion has been linked to increased cases of skin cancer and vulnerability to blindness and disease. There are many studies being conducted to find the answers to the ozone connection and skin cancer, however none have conclusive evidence that there is a direct link.

Scientists offer many reasons to explain the increase in cases of skin cancer. One of course, is the depletion of the ozone layer. Another, since there is more awareness of the disease, its symptoms and prevention, more people are being diagnosed with it.

Some melanomas take years to grow, so some doctors believe that many Americans who spent years and even decades in the hot sun without protection, are paying for it now.

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How much calcium do you get in your daily diet?

If you’re like most Americans, experts say you probably don’t get enough. You could be at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

By the time Parvin Pedram realized this, it was too late. “You think it can happen to somebody else, but not to me,” she says. “So I heard it all my life, but I never really took it that serious.”

At just 43, Parvin has osteoporosis. This disease of brittle bones affects 28 million Americans. Experts say it’s on the rise because women don’t get enough calcium.

Jane Chihal, M.D., is an obstetrician/gynecologist in Dallas, Tex. “We’re talking about preventing a disease that can be fatal but also can take away your independence as you get older.”

It’s estimated that the average adult gets only 600 milligrams of calcium a day from their regular diet. The recommended amount? One thousand to 1,300.

“You don’t get your optimum bone strength until you’re 35. Then after that you have to protect it so that you don’t lose it as you get older,” says Dr. Chihal.

So how do you get from 600 milligrams a day to more than a thousand? Try adding three of these to your daily diet:

A cup of fat free or whole milk — 300 milligrams
An ounce of cheese — 200
A cup of low fat yogurt — 345

Other foods high in calcium: broccoli, spinach, beans and fortified orange juice. Calcium from food is better, but if you’re shy of the recommended amount, add a supplement such as calcium citrate.

Parvin Pedram, “Just being women, we know we’re going to have a bone problem. So we need to start from day one to attack this.” Through exercise, medication and calcium every day, she hopes to beat osteoporosis.

It’s also important to get vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium better. Dietary sources of vitamin D include green vegetables, fortified milk, cheese, tomatoes and cauliflower. Doctors warn you can get too much calcium. If you take more than 2,000 milligrams you can develop kidney stones.

USANA Vitamins Active Calcium™ contains calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D in truly bioavailable forms. USANA Active Calcium was designed help people with a vitamin D deficiency and to complement the USANA Essentials™ in providing the full amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D required daily for long-term health.