(NOTE: We featured Dr. Matthews in our February 2001 issue and requested his reaction to the New York Times reporting of a new Vitamin D study he refers to in the below response.)
In response to Gina Kolata’s article in the New York Times, “Study Finds Another Condition That Vitamin D3 Pills Do Not Help” (bone fractures). As a top vitamin D3 expert and a retired trauma/surgical care surgeon, I must help to educate you on hormone/vitamin D3. To begin with, vitamin D3 is a hormone that has receptors on every cell and tissue in the human body. Hormone D3 controls 3,000 out of 30,000 genes in the human body. This makes vitamin D3 one of the human body’s most essential chemicals.
Next, the dose (2,000 IU) used in this study is too low. The human body can make up to 20,000 IU daily from sun exposure. The body destroys what it does not need. During stressful situations such as trauma, sepsis, and hospitalizations, the vitamin D3 levels drop fifty percent (50%) within 24 hours. Vitamin D3 is an “anti-stress hormone” essential during any stressful state in the body, including pregnancy.
Vitamin D3 works like dopamine does in the human body. At low doses, dopamine binds to dopamine receptors and stimulates renal blood flow. At moderate blood concentrations, dopamine binds beta receptors and increases heart rate. At high blood concentrations, dopamine binds alpha receptors and causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels. Vitamin D3 binds to different receptors at different blood concentrations. One must understand chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, and pathophysiology to understand vitamin D3 metabolism. Also, humans do not reach a maximal bone density until the blood concentration of vitamin D3 is above 40ng/ml. The blood concentration of vitamin D3 is the “most important” thing. The dose will differ for different people to achieve the desired blood concentration of vitamin D3. There isn’t any one dose that fits all (2,000 IU daily).
Vitamin D3 is found in all living things, including plants (Vitamin D2) and animals (vitamin D3). All animals in the wild have vitamin D3 blood levels between 50-55 ng/ml. Humans are animals, so our blood levels should be the same as animals in the wild for optimal health. A vitamin D3 level of 30 ng/ml is insufficient for optimal human health.
According to Cristina Palacious in Critical Review of Food Science Nutrition (2006), the bone is a bone matrix requiring vitamin D3, calcium, protein, collagen, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, fluoride, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin K, and B
Vitamins to make a healthy bone and heal bone fractures. Using a low dose of vitamin D3 alone (2,000 IU) to heal a broken bone is like using cement mix without water, sand, and iron to make cement. Vitamin D3 does not work in isolation in the human body. Thus, to heal bone fractures, one needs to take a good multivitamin, a proper amount of protein, and the appropriate dose of vitamin D3 to heal bone fractures.
Finally, being a trauma surgeon, vitamin D3 researcher, and looking inside all the body cavities of a human body in real-time, allowed me to see things other vitamin D3 researchers could not see. Vitamin D3 metabolism is very complicated and cannot be reduced to simply giving out vitamin D3 2,000 IU daily and wondering why it does not work.
L. Ray Matthews, M.D., FACS, FCCM (retired)
Professor of Surgery, Trauma, and Surgical Critical Care Morehouse School of Medicine
Grady Memorial Hospital Atlanta, Georgia
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