Home Health DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: I don’t believe in supplements, except this one, which I’ve started taking all year…

DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: I don’t believe in supplements, except this one, which I’ve started taking all year…

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Studies show that our bodies become less effective at absorbing vitamin D from foods and sunlight as we age, and that's why Dr. Michael Mosley says he takes supplements year-round.

In general, I’m not a fan of taking too many supplements, as I think you can get most of what you need from a healthy diet.

But I make an exception for vitamin D. And since recent studies show that high doses can not only reduce the risk of colon cancer, but also dementia, I am now taking a higher dose than usual… and I am also taking. all year.

During the winter months when the sun is weak, I always followed NHS advice and took one tablet daily, because I know that vitamin D is very important for many reasons.

But usually at this time of year, when the sun is strong and summer is almost here, I stop taking it. After all, I eat a lot of oily fish and eggs, both rich in vitamin D, and I also walk a lot, so my vitamin D levels should be pretty high.

However, this year I will continue taking those supplements.

Studies show that our bodies become less effective at absorbing vitamin D from foods and sunlight as we age, and that’s why Dr. Michael Mosley says he takes supplements year-round.

This is partly because, surprise, every year I get older and studies have shown that as we age our bodies become less effective at absorbing vitamin D from foods and our skin also becomes less efficient at converting sunlight. in this nutrient.

That, and the fact that older people tend to spend more time indoors or in the shade, means that vitamin D deficiency is very common in people over 60, even in the summer months, especially if you have darker skin.

But what dose should you take? That’s where things get more controversial. While the NHS suggests limiting yourself to 10 micrograms (mcg), or 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, the US National Institutes of Health recommends 15 mcg, and 20 mcg if you are over 70 years.

I take 25 mcg (1000 IU), which is within the limits of what is considered safe (anything less than 100 mcg a day for adults or 50 mcg for children, according to the NHS), but is closer to the dosage type that studies show is needed. take to protect yourself from infections, cancers and maybe even dementia.

Since its discovery in the 1920s, the best-known function of vitamin D has been to maintain healthy bones by increasing the body’s absorption of calcium.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that vitamin D receptors exist in almost all of our cells, suggesting that its usefulness extends far beyond the bones.

But there is growing evidence that higher doses than those typically recommended are needed to enjoy benefits in these areas, such as preventing colon cancer and maintaining brain health.

For example, when it comes to cancer, a very recent study, published in the journal Science, showed that one of the ways that taking large doses of vitamin D could work is by stimulating the type of gut bacteria that are particularly good at preventing growth. of bowel cancers. When researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London gave mice a diet rich in vitamin D, levels of Bacteroides fragilis increased, and higher levels of this bacteria better protected them against colon cancer.

Although there is currently no clear evidence that taking high doses of vitamin D has the same impact on the human intestine, trials are underway looking at its use to treat colon cancer.

In 2017, for example, a trial of 139 patients with advanced colon cancer who were receiving chemotherapy found that those taking a high dose of vitamin D (100 mcg) were 36 percent less likely to have died or seen it progress. her illness. over the course of the two-year study than those who received a low dose (10 mcg). Encouraged, the team is conducting a larger, longer study to determine whether high doses of vitamin D can help slow or even prevent the spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, evidence of vitamin D’s impact on delaying dementia is also growing.

Last year there was a fascinating study from the University of Exeter where they looked at the brains of more than 12,000 people participating in the US National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (a project that collects data on the disease).

At the start of the study, patients had an average age of 71 and did not have dementia, and just over a third (37 percent) said they took vitamin D supplements regularly. Vitamin D fans will be pleased to know that over the next ten years those who took the supplements were 40 percent less likely to suffer from dementia.

This may be because vitamin D has been shown to help prevent the buildup of two proteins in the brain, amyloid and tau, that have been linked to dementia. It also helps reduce inflammation, another trigger of dementia.

Although compelling, this was not a proper randomized controlled trial (in which people taking the supplement would be compared to a placebo group) and all patients were receiving very different doses, making these results difficult to interpret.

But the same researchers have been conducting a trial with patients at risk of developing dementia, which will include randomly assigning them a high-dose vitamin D supplement (100 mcg) or a placebo. I’ll let you know when the results are published.

In the meantime, take a supplement if you need it (obviously consult your doctor about the appropriate dosage, especially if you have existing health problems) and make the most of the vitamin D boost you get in the summer months, spending at least ten minutes a day outdoors, with your sleeves rolled up.

Going down stairs can help your heart

When I’m at an airport or a shopping mall I’m always surprised (and disappointed) by the number of people standing on the escalators, even when they’re going down.

All I can say is that you are missing out on the opportunity to give your heart a good workout and potentially prolong your life. That was the conclusion of a recent review presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference.

Based on data from 480,000 people, it found that those who climbed stairs regularly were 39 percent less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke, and 24 percent less likely to die from any cause. This is because it is a relatively intense exercise that quickly speeds up the heart.

It’s even more beneficial to take the stairs: In a 2017 study by Edith Cowan University in Australia, overweight women took the elevator to the sixth floor and then walked down, or took the elevator up and down, twice a week. After a fortnight, those who walked down saw the greatest benefits in balance, bone strength and blood pressure, probably because walking down stairs means the muscles have to work harder to prevent falling.

What to do with that persistent cough

As you may have noticed, there is a persistent and annoying cough. I contracted it a couple of weeks ago from my brother-in-law, who had had it for at least three weeks and who in turn had caught it from his wife.

This one keeps me up at night and shows no signs of getting better. The problem is that I don’t really believe in the effectiveness of over-the-counter remedies (there is no adequate evidence that cough medicines work), but in desperation I turned to cough syrup and a zinc supplement. So far neither of them have been of any use. I was especially disappointed with zinc, as studies have suggested that supplements can shorten a cold and reduce coughs by up to 46 percent. (Although that only seems to apply if taken within 24 hours of symptoms appearing, so I probably missed that path.)

If you experience a similar cough, I suggest drinking plenty of water and occasionally warm lemon and honey (honey helps soothe the throat, while lemon has anti-inflammatory properties). The NHS recommends seeing your doctor if your cough persists for more than three weeks.

Catch a thief is a well-known saying that, fortunately for us, also seems to apply to bacteria. A new study by the University of Bonn in Germany found that a common type of skin bacteria, staphylococcus, kills other bacteria by injecting a chemical that dissolves their cell membranes.

The idea is that this could be harnessed to create a new antibiotic, which is exciting given that many bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics, including the first truly effective antibiotic, penicillin, which saved my life as a baby when I contracted pneumonia.

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