Tag Archives: vitamin d

Low-calorie, high-protein, with a vitamin D boost: mushrooms make meals more nutritious

If you ever needed a good reason to eat more mushrooms, here it is: adding mushrooms to your diet can increase the intake of key micronutrients most of us are actually lacking (such as vitamin D) without affecting the intake of calories, a new study found. The benefits were found on both the diets of children and adults and are in line with a growing literature on the benefits of mushrooms.

Image credit: Flickr / Ivan Radic

More mushrooms, please

The finding is especially relevant in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have shown low levels of vitamin D among patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and there seems to be a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID-19 cases, although there are no conclusive findings just yet.

Mushrooms, the bodies of filamentous fungi that grow above the ground, have long been a part of the human diet and used as both foods and medicine. They provide many of the same nutritional benefits as vegetables, as well as attributes commonly found in meat, beans, and grains (such as a high number of proteins). They’re biologically distinct from both plants and animals.

A group of US researchers modelled the nutritional impact of adding a serving of mushrooms, using the dietary intake data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) — which includes at a sample of 10,000 adults and children every two years. The focused on the surveys from 2011 to 2016 for the study.

In a previous study, they had already found that mushroom intake was associated with higher intakes of several key nutrients and better diet quality. However, the intake was low at 2.3 g per day per capita or 20.6 g per day among consumers in the US. Now, they wanted to look at what would happen if consumers started eating more mushrooms. Unsurprisingly, the more mushrooms people consumed, the better they scored for key nutrients.

Adding a serving of 84 grams of mushroom to the diet increased several nutrients that are often lacking from our diets, the researchers found. This was true for the white, crimini, portabella, and oyster mushrooms. An increase in fiber (5%-6%), copper (24%-32%), phosphorus (6%), potassium (12%-14%), selenium (13%-14%) and zinc (5%-6%) and riboflavin (13%-15%) was reported.

The study also showed that a serving of UV-light mushrooms (mushrooms exposed to UV light) decreased population insufficiency for vitamin D from 95.3% to 52.8% for the age group 9-18 years and from 94.9% to 63.6% for the age group 19+ years. Similar to humans, mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight or a sunlamp.

“This research validated what we already knew that adding mushrooms to your plate is an effective way to reach the dietary goals,” Mary Jo Feeney, nutrition research coordinator to the Mushroom Council, said in a statement. “Data from surveys are used to assess nutritional status and its association with health promotion and disease prevention and assist with formulation of national standards.”

Studies showed over the years similar large behind mushrooms. Mushroom eaters (people who ate two portions of mushrooms per week) performed better in brain tests and had overall faster brain processing speed, a 2019 study showed. Also, in 2017, a study found mushrooms have high levels of ergothioneine and glutathione, two compounds with important antioxidant properties.

The study was published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition.

Sunburn selfie.

Extremely high doses of vitamin D help with sunburns, reduce inflammation, heal skin cells

White as milk but still thinking of going to the beach? Make sure to pack your sunscreen. But in the future, vitamin D supplements may be all you need — a double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that extremely high doses of this vitamin taken one hour after getting a sunburn ‘significantly’ reduce skin redness, swelling, and inflammation.

Sunburn selfie.

Image credits Hans Braxmeier.

For the trial, performed at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, 20 participants were put under the UV lamp to get a small sunburn on their inner arm. They were randomized to receive either a placebo pill or a 50,000, 100,000, or 200,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D one hour after UV exposure, and sent back home. The team followed up on the participants 24, 48, 72 hours and 1 week after the experiment to see how the burns were faring, collect skin biopsies, and perform further tests.

Vitamin heal’D

Overall, vitamin D seems to have played a big part in helping the skin heal. Those participants who had received the largest dose showed the most pronounced and longest-lasting benefits, such as less skin inflammation and redness 48 hours after the burn. When measuring gene activity in the skin samples, the researchers found that participants with the highest levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream showed a jump in gene activity related to skin barrier repair.

“We found benefits from vitamin D were dose-dependent,” said Kurt Lu, MD, senior author on the study and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

“We hypothesize that vitamin D helps promote protective barriers in the skin by rapidly reducing inflammation. What we did not expect was that at a certain dose, vitamin D not only was capable of suppressing inflammation, it was also activating skin repair genes.”

Analysis of the skin samples showed that vitamin D increases levels of an anti-inflammatory enzyme in the skin called arginase-1. This compound is known to promote tissue repair and activate a host of other anti-inflammatory proteins. The team, however, notes that the doses involved in this trial were extremely high. The Food and Drug Administration’s recommended adult daily allowance for vitamin D is 400 IU, between a hundredth and a five-hundredth of the doses the team administered.

“I would not recommend at this moment that people start taking vitamin D after sunburn based on this study alone. But, the results are promising and worthy of further study,” Lu cautioned.

So in the meantime, make sure to pack adequate sunscreen.

The authors hope that their findings will help guide research towards the benefits vitamin D, as they believe “there is a lack of evidence demonstrating that intervention with vitamin D is capable of resolving acute inflammation” despite the fact that vitamin D deficiency is well studied. They’re planning on further expanding on their findings, in an effort to find new treatments for burn patients.

The paper “Oral vitamin D rapidly attenuates inflammation from sunburn: an interventional study” has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.


Autism symptoms dramatically improved after treatment with Vitamin D

There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating serotonin. This means it could cause (deficiency) or treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms (supplement). For instance, one study prescribed Vitamin D3 to autistic children in an open trial and had a 80% success rate – that is, the children became less hyperactive, irritable, and engaged far less in stereotypical behavior. The children were also more responsive and compliant to their families.


Vitamind D is produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Image: Mercola

In the US, one in 68 kids is affected by ASD, making the fastest growing development disorder in the country. Studies so far have garnered that the condition is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Among the latter, Vitamin D3 (cholecaliferol) seems to play a significant role. The prohormone is naturally released in the body when exposed to sunlight. Previously, Patrick and Ames published a paper in which they show the vitamin D hormone (calcitriol) activates the transcription of the serotonin-synthesizing gene tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2). This suggests that a specific level of vitamin D may be required to produce adequate serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to affect social behavior. The paper also explains 4 major characteristics associated with autism: the low concentrations of serotonin in the brain and its elevated concentrations in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier; the low concentrations of the vitamin D hormone precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D3]; the high male prevalence of autism; and the presence of maternal antibodies against fetal brain tissue.

The scientists in Egypt prescribed Vitamin D3 supplements (300 IU/Kg/day not to exceed 5,000 IU/day) to 122 autistic children aged between three to nine years. The treatment was administered for three months, then compared to a control group. Once in the liver, Vitamin D3 is converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin D3. Despite side-effects including skin rashes, itching and diarrhea, 80% of the children involved in the study fared better at CARS scores, which gauges the severity of ASD symptoms. Findings appeared in Nutritional Neuroscience.

Elsewhere, doctors in China are reporting that treatment with vitamin D appeared to produce dramatic improvements in a toddler with autism. Blood tests showed that the boy had borderline low blood levels of vitamin D (12.5 ng/mL). The doctors administered a monthly injection of vitamin D3 (150,000 IU) and prescribed a daily oral supplement (400 IU). After two months, the boy’s vitamin D blood levels had risen to 81.2 ng/mL, and his parents were reporting clear improvements. The boy had stopped running in circles and banging his head. He was responding to his name, playing with toys and asking his parents to hold him in their arms.

Dr. John J Cannell is the founder of the Vitamin D council in the United States, and one of the supporters of the study’s findings made in Egypt. Cannell met lead author  Khaled Saad while seeking more related information about Patrick & Ames study. 

“My experience, having treated about 100 children with autism, is that 25% respond dramatically to high dose vitamin D, 50% respond significantly and 25% do not respond at all I don’t know why,” Cannell said for ZME Science. “80% of the children responded to 5,000 IU/day so it is about what I have found. My hopes for the future is that a randomized controlled trial is done using high dose vitamin D,” he added.

Regarding a randomized trial for Vitamind D3 and autism – the golden standard typically employed for determining causal relationships – Cannell doesn’t express much hope.

“Unfortunately, the trial will probably be negative for two reasons. They will not use enough vitamin D and, two, their ethics committee will not allow the placebo group to remain deficient thus rendering the trial useless,” Cannell said.

Cases of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increased by 30% in the last couple of years, according to a reported issued by the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A piece I wrote previously for ZME Science argues that autism might not actually be on the rise and the increased prevalence might actually be a statistical mishap due to under-reporting and the way doctors have changed what falls under an ASD diagnosis. As far as Cannell is concerned, he believes “the prevalence of autism is increasing in direct proportion to sun avoidance, which is still increasing.”

Hopefully, we might actually see some results from some randomized trials, maybe made in the US. A lot of parents go bankrupt to treat their kids, with roughly $60,000 expenses a year on average per family. Vitamin D is as inexpressive as sunlight.


Neither vitamin D3 or calcium were found to aid respiratory illnesses. Photo credit: my.opera.com

Vitamin D and calcium supplements don’t ease winter coughs, study finds

To improve health and ease drowsy coughs during winter time, you’ll find that some sources, including physicians, advise that you add supplements to your diet in order to boost your immune system. A team of researchers report, however, after performing a randomized study that taking vitamin D, calcium or both altogether doesn’t offer any significant respiratory improvement.

Neither vitamin D3 or calcium were found to aid respiratory illnesses. Photo credit: my.opera.com

Neither vitamin D3 or calcium were found to aid respiratory illnesses. Photo credit: my.opera.com

The scientists sought to see if there was any connection between taking vitamin D   and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). In order to become relevant, the researchers chose to survey 2259 trial participants, of general health,  aged 45–75 who were administered  vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day), calcium (1200 mg/day), both, or placebo. Of these, 759 participants completed daily symptom diaries throughout the duration of the four-year long study.

[RELATED] Four causes of winter blues and what can you do about them

During winters, those who took vitamin D experienced on average 1.8 days of respiratory-related illness, versus  1.6 days among the placebo group, an insignificant difference by the authors’ account. Regarding the calcium supplements, there was no observable difference  either. It was not associated with the incidence, duration or severity of symptoms, and was equally ineffective when taken with vitamin D.

“Of course there are observational studies that show that vitamin D has various benefits,” said the lead author, Judy R. Rees, an assistant professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth. “But those studies can’t eliminate the effects of lifestyle from causing bias. A randomized trial is designed to avoid those problems, and that’s what I think we did.”

These results were reported in a paper published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases,

Alright, so it’s not the best news for those already having to deal with mid-winter coughs. Here are some tips you may want to consider though: stay well hydrated (8 glasses of water per day), be sure to get plenty of sunlight exposure (I know it’s cold outside, but at least be sure to keep your window shutters open), avoid eating sugary foods as much as possible, add honey and lemon to a glass of water and sip throughout the day and, of course, be sure to consult with your local physician.