Mar 052011

Vitamin D made headlines worldwide in the past couple of years. Unlike studies of other vitamins showing no or minimal effects, studies of vitamin D levels show statistically significant effects, including effects on all-cause mortality. 1 Progressive doctors have begun ordering vitamin D tests for their patients. I was deficient in this vitamin and never knew it. Now, after 8 months on 5000 IU per day (what the medical establishment 10 years ago would have decried as a dangerous dose), my vitamin D levels are normal — barely. I have a long way to go.

The takeaway: If you’re only taking 400 or 800 IU of vitamin D per day, you may be deficient. Get your levels checked by a competent doctor, and make sure you supplement with vitamin D3 — the prescription form is vitamin D2, which may not produce the desired results. If you’re taking vitamin D and your levels aren’t going up, you may have an absorption problem — try sublingual vitamin D, which bypasses the digestive tract. This is what finally seems to be getting my vitamin D levels up.

Iodine makes headlines nowhere — but its depletion from our environment is a huge story. Iodine is vital to the human body — its absence causes cretinism in extreme cases, but in less extreme cases iodine deficiency has been suggested as a main culprit in fibrocystic breast disease, thyroid disease, and perhaps even cancer.

From about 1960 to 1980, a form of iodine was used in bread flour, and each slice of bread contained about 150 mcg — the entire RDA. Several decades ago, a shift from iodine to bromine (specifically, potassium bromate) in bread flour went unheralded. The main source of iodine in the Western diet is now iodized salt, providing a paltry fraction of prior intake amounts. Moreover, potassium bromate is both a likely carcinogen 2 3 and an iodine antagonist — it blocks iodine uptake by the body. Some people, especially if their multivitamin does not provide iodine and they use sea salt instead of iodized salt, may take in virtually zero iodine. This was the case for me for about a decade.

The best solution for iodine depletion is to eat seaweed — kombu (kelp) and wakame contain large amounts of iodine and are eaten routinely in Asian countries with no ill effects. They contain complementary minerals that facilitate absorption and proper use of their iodine, and are one of the healthiest foods on Earth. One caveat — buy seaweed from a reputable company, since some seaweed can be contaminated with heavy metals. Supplemental iodine is also a possibility but should be undertaken with the supervision of a trained medical professional.


  1. Vitamin D Supplementation and Total Mortality: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007.
  2. Consumer Group Calls for Ban on “Flour Improver”: Potassium Bromate Termed a Cancer Threat, Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1999.
  3. Potassium Bromate, Hazardous Substances Data Bank, U.S. National Library of Medicine

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