Thursday, April 29, 2010


So I went in for my less than annual check up a few weeks ago and submitted to the indignity of the physical - including needle puncture, blood-letting, and the culminating abasement of having my man-parts man-handled while a twiggy Indian resident 'observed' in a state of mild chagrin. Despite the preteenish demeanor of his young accomplice, the excellent Dr. Dhond was all business and handled the man-handling professionally. I'm always impressed with the brusqueness of the doctors who have to perform this service to society.

The probing completed, I waited the interim days while the mysteries of the blood work were performed and wondered with increasing paranoia what unforeseen illness lurked in my veins. In past iterations of this routine, it's come up that I have off-the-charts cholesterol levels for my age, as well as peculiarly high counts of a liver enzyme called bilirubin. The cholesterol at least proved a red herring caused by my failing to fast by dint of a cream-cheese bagel in the run-up to my blood sampling. The bilirubin bit is a genetic gift from my lineage called 'Gilbert's (jheel-BAYR) Snydrome' which is largely asymptomatic, save for the occasional bout of jaundice. So if I ever seem a little yellow that's probably why.

This time around it turns out I've come down with a case of vitamin D deficiency thanks mostly to a dogmatic adherence to the ritual of sunscreen, which blocks the carcinogenic Ultraviolet B rays from the sun that are needed for synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Sunscreen usage is so pervasive, according to Dr. Dhond, that almost 50% of adults are borderline/outright vitamin D deficient. The collective plight is not helped by the fact that nobody over the age of 12 drinks much milk.

So, what's my risk? I'm too old for rickets, but not too young to start worrying about osteoporosis or the detrimental, yet poorly understood, effects that vitamin D deficiency may have on my immune system. Not leaving a thing to chance, I suggested that I just start getting sunburns again but this didn't amuse Dr. Dhond. 
He says I need supplementary vitamin D in pill form or before long I'll be as brittle as a gingerbread man.


  1. sounds like you need a trip to maui

  2. There's a fair amount about the importance of Vitamin D in cancer prevention, depression, athletic performance, osteoporosis, and a host of other health issues.
    The wikipedia entry on Vitamin D is pretty thorough, as was the Mayo Clinic’s information, and the NYTimes’ excellent Well Blog had a post in late September which featured many helpful comments from doctors who treat low vitamin D levels (and a variety of other vitamin D enthusiasts). The chief concern in supplementation is overdoing it, since fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D can be toxic if levels are too high. There's a fair amount of evidence that it would be hard to make yourself toxic. Most toxicities occur when people ingest >40,000 IU/day and the human body naturally makes up to a maximum of 10,000 IU/day. While the current maximum RDI is 2,000 IU, that guideline is apparently up for revision in 2010 and expected to be lifted to 10,000 IU.
    I decided to take 5000 IU/day. One point of advice that I found particularly helpful is that once you’ve supplemented for 8 weeks you should be retested and adjust as needed – pretty logical. The target level is 50-80 ng/mL.

    If you live anywhere except New York state you can order a home-testing kit for $65.

  3. Thanks, I think I'll take the trip to Maui.