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Dear Dr Cannell: Continue supplementing when doctor says no?

Posted on: August 4, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Dear Dr. Cannell,

My 82 year old uncle, who suffers from very bad diabetes, along with diabetic neuropathy and non-aggressive prostate cancer, was recently tested by his primary physician for D levels using the 25(OH)D, test. His level came by at 65 ng/ml, and his doctor ordered us to immediately stop any supplementation as he considered 65 ng/ml to be way too high.

I was not able to make any headway with my uncle’s primary physician, who told me that vitamin D supplementation is useless. However, I am hoping you will write a brief opinion that I may share with my uncle, as I feel his health will be in danger if he stops supplementation. He had been taking 12,000 IU daily since February 2012 prior to his test in this month (July 2012).

Thank you very much.

Jeanne, New York

Dear Jeanne:

Your uncle absolutely needs to be on vitamin D although I doubt he will need 12,000 IU daily. He was clearly very deficient when he started taking it and now is replete. While vitamin D has not been shown to cure diabetes, it may well help with some of the complications, such as foot infections. Foot infections in diabetics are four times more frequent if you have low vitamin D levels.

D deficiency may be linked to diabetic foot infections

Furthermore, diabetic neuropathy can cause chronic pain and those with low vitamin D levels are more likely to suffer from chronic pain.

Vitamin D status linked to chronic pain

Finally, the majority of men with low-grade prostate cancer who took vitamin D showed improvement in both their Gleason Scores and the number of core biopsies positive. That is, in 60% of men, the cancer seemed to improve.

A step in the right direction: vitamin D and prostate cancer

I advise your uncle to either find another doctor, who keeps up with the medical literature, or simply take 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D3 and tell his doctor he cut his dose down but will not stop it. However, after being on 5,000 IU daily for 3 months, repeat the 25(OH)D to make sure your uncle is still in the ideal range, around 50 ng/ml.

John Cannell, MD

4 Responses to Dear Dr Cannell: Continue supplementing when doctor says no?

  1. [email protected]

    Dear Dr. Cannell,

    I always find your comments right on target. Thank you for providing such good, sound information.

    Rita Umile

  2. Ron Carmichael

    For the reluctant person in need I will also suggest they “take their daily dose of sun”. I reason that if the typical light-skinned person can generate up to 5,000 to 10,000iu in an hour, or perhaps 20,000iu in a day in the Texas summer sun that “til pink-ish” will supplement in a way that few physicians can militate against yet be a strong contributor to overall levels.
    Regarding the example in this story, if my present doctor ever said something similar to me, I would politely insist he provide a study or scientific evidence to support his “advice”. Fortunately, I no longer see my dermatologist for her failure to have any legitimate sources for her saying what I viewed to be an ill-informed medical opinion. “Vitamin D? They are just trying to make money” was NOT the kind of citation from the literature (pulp fiction) that I needed. Never overdo the exposure, but mother nature will help if we let her.

  3. silvalli

    People out in the sun on a regular basis, for example, lifeguards in a San Diego study, who had time to adjust to the amount of sun in their jobs, pretty much all had more than 65 ng/mL. Some were in the 80s. I would say keep doing what you’re doing!

  4. silvalli

    Fire that doctor and get a good one!

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