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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D levels in indoor athletes are likely low

Last month, October of 2011, a Spanish group documented what the Vitamin D Council first reported several years ago: vitamin D levels in indoor athletes are likely to be very low.

Bescós García R, Rodríguez Guisado FA. Low levels of vitamin D in professional basketball players after wintertime: relationship with dietary intake of vitamin D and calcium. Nutr Hosp. 2011 Oct;26(5):945-51.

Four of the 21 professional basketball players had levels below 10 ng/ml and 12 of the 21 had levels less than 20 ng/ml. I don’t know the rules in Spain, but it is my understanding that in the USA, professional athletes must be treated with Drisdol or D2, because no one makes a vitamin D3 that is on the list of approved supplements for professional athletes.

This is important because if you take a supplement that was made in the same manufacturing plant that made an anabolic steroid, very small quantities of that anabolic steroid may show up in your urine test, and you are in trouble. Therefore, it’s D2 for elite athletes, unless they are smart enough to sunbathe in the summer and go to a sunbed parlor in the winter.

We now have two papers indicating that D2 is less efficacious than human vitamin D. This should surprise no one as humans seldom improve on God’s creations. The vitamin D like compound (D2) that made the University Of Wisconsin remarkably wealthy remains the only prescription vitamin D available for Americans.

Unlike human vitamin D, vitamin D2 was able to be patented, as it does not occur naturally in the human body. For years, University of Wisconsin Professor Harry Steenbock and others irradiated one organic material after another and found that that material could prevent rickets. However, any company that did so had to first pay patent fees to the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association. By 1973, these fees exceeded $65 million.

Now 40 years later, professional athletes, if they want to improve their game, would be wiser to use D3. Simply get one of the in-home low-pressure sun tanning beds and spend a few minutes in it each day. For the rest of us, do not take the prescription your doctor gives you if it says “D2” or “Drisdol.” Instead, go to the store and get D3 and, if you are an adult, simply take 5,000 IU/day. Children need 1,000 IU for every 25 pounds of body weight.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.