Vitamin D Overdose/Another Problem with Calcium/Don’t Eat Raw Kale/Homocysteine and the Brain

Vitamin D Overdose

A recent case of vitamin D overdose involved a 54 year old male who had been taking large amounts of vitamin D daily, for 2.5 years. He had been advised by a naturopath, but he had also accidentally been purchasing a supplement which contained twice as much vitamin D as his naturopath recommended.

After discovering that the man was producing about 4 times the normal amount of creatinine, his doctor sent him to a kidney specialist. (Creatinine is a waste product, measured in order to determine kidney function.)

The specialist found that, aside from kidney issues (kidney function at about half of normal), the man also had hypercalcemia (an overload of calcium in the blood), which led to calcium deposits in his kidneys.

After discovering how much vitamin D the patient was taking, doctors determined this to be the cause of his health problems. The amount of vitamin D he was taking (for 2.5 years) was between 8,000 and 12,000 IU’s per day.   (Source)

Now, there are some people who do take amounts of vitamin D regularly, at levels close to this. In fact, it has been estimated that those who live at the equator will generate around 8,000 IU of vitamin D daily. However, vitamin D derived from the sun is not all in the “active” form (unlike the supplemental form), and so the body can activate it, and use it, as needed. Or not activate it if it is deemed unnecessary. We do not have that safety valve with supplemental vitamin D, it being already activated.

That being said, we must also consider that many people have malfunctioning vitamin D receptors, due to genetics, and so require much more vitamin D than the average person.

Finally, we have to appreciate that vitamin D requires cofactors. For example, vitamin D needs there to be adequate amounts of vitamin K2, and magnesium in the body, or high levels can deplete the body of these nutrients. Considering that both magnesium and K2 prevent hypercalcemia, and prevent calcium from building up in soft tissue (like in the kidneys), it is feasible that, had the gentleman also taken good amounts of those two nutrients, he may never have developed kidney problems.

Another Problem with Calcium
Years ago (2005) I wrote a blog on the dangers of excessive calcium intake, and its link to heart disease. (Killing with Calcium Blog)  That link has been confirmed in many studies since then, but, I will point out the link is strictly between calcium in supplement form (at doses of 1,000 mg, or more, daily), and heart disease and stroke. This link does not occur, even at relatively high calcium intake, when the calcium is derived from food.Now, a new study suggests taking high doses of calcium supplements may double the risk of dying from cancer.

An analysis of the medical records of 27,000 adults found links between high doses of calcium, and cancer in their later years (though, again, no link was found between increased consumption of foods containing calcium, and cancer occurence). The research revealed that, after 12 years’ follow-up, there were about 24 cancer related deaths per 1000 people, vs 12 deaths among those who did not supplement with calcium.

The authors of this study (from the journal Annals of Internal Medicine) concluded that, at the very least, cancer patients definitely should avoid taking calcium supplements in high doses (1,000 mg or more daily).  (Source)

Don’t Eat Raw Kale
There is a reason that kale has become omnipresent, and that is due to the phenomenal amount of nutrients it contains.

As mentioned above, high calcium intake, in the form of supplements, has been linked to increased heart disease, and cancer, rates. For those seeking to get sufficient calcium from their diet, especially those who avoid dairy products, kale is a champion. Containing 90 mg of bioavailable calcium per cup, kale is actually higher in calcium than whole cow’s milk.

Along with this, kale is also high in the calcium cofactors, magnesium and vitamin K.

But wait, there’s more: kale contains all 9 essential amino acids (plus 9 others), like meat does, making it a complete protein, something rarely found in plant foods (outside of algae).

The ratio of carbohydrates to protein is 3:1, again, a level of protein that is uncommon in the plant kingdom.

Also rare among plant foods, kale has a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. Other nutrients found in extremely high amounts in kale are beta carotene, and the eye-supportive nutrients lutein, and zeaxanthin. And, as with the other cruciferous vegetables, kale is very high in the sulfur-containing anticancer compounds sulforaphane, and indole-3-carbinol.

BUT: Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale is a goitrogen. Thus when eaten raw, too frequently, it can impede thyroid function, and slow down the metabolism. So kale, as with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc, should be cooked before consuming.   (Source)

Homocysteine and the Brain
Homocysteine is an sulfur-containing amino acid found in the blood, most commonly derived from a meat-based diet. Meat is high in the amino acid methionine, and homocysteine is a  metabolite of this essential amino acid.

High levels of homocysteine are linked to early development of heart disease, and indeed a homocysteine test is critical to determining our risk factor for heart disease. (High levels are also linked to kidney disease.)

The particular aspect of heart disease linked to high homocysteine is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and high levels are found in those who have had heart attacks or strokes.

Low levels of vitamins B6, B12, and folate, contribute to excessively high homocysteine in the body. Other factors believed to raise levels of homocysteine are poor diet, poor lifestyle (smoking, and high coffee and alcohol intake), some prescription drugs (such as proton pump inhibitors), diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and poor thyroid function.

Now, recent studies have linked high homocysteine levels (and low levels of those 3 protective B vitamins) with cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In a Korean study, 321 elderly people were tested for cognitive function, along with their levels of vitamin B12, folate, and homocysteine. “Low folate levels were associated with low scores on naming tests, and low levels of vitamin B12 were related to low scores on word list memory. High homocysteine levels were also associated with low scores on word memory and construction recall testing.”   (Study)

Another study found “a significant correlation between risk of Alzheimer’s disease and high plasma levels of homocysteine, as well as low levels of folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12. (Study)

Homocysteine is produced as a result of methylation reactions, and up to 40% of the population may have methylation problems. Usually those are people with life long illnesses, both difficult to diagnose, and difficult to resolve (e.g. Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Epstein Barr, Chemical sensitivity, etc).

Testing homocysteine levels is one way to detect if one is a poor methylator, since high homocysteine is a symptom of this genetic malfunction. As methylation is a complex subject, those who are interested may which to view the video on the subject found on this website: Link

Since a homocysteine test is simple, effective, and generally covered through medical plans, it is a good idea for most of us to track our levels, as we age, with semi-regular testing.

For those who feel the need to supplement with vitamin B12 (especially of concern to vegans and seniors), I suggest our Quick B12, a well-absorbed (sublingual), state-of-the-art  (methylcobalamin) product.

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