Why Vitamin D is Measured in “IU”

Vitamin DYou see it on your bottle of vitamin D… 2,000 IU. You see IU on food labels too. What’s an IU anyway? And why IU instead of mg like vitamin C and calcium supplements?

What’s the Difference?

Gram (gm), milligrams (mg), and micrograms (mcg) are units of weight. To visually represent the relationship between the three units, think of a microgram as a miniscule grain of rice, a milligram as a small bite of rice, and a gram as the whole bowl of rice.

  • 1 gm  = 1,000 mg
  • 1,000 mg = 1,000,000 mcg (µg is the short unit symbol for microgram)

International Unit (IU) is a unit of measurement but NOT a measure of weight. It’s the quantity of a specific biologically active substance that produces a particular biological effect. IU is most commonly used for medications, vaccines and some vitamins. However, converting an IU to a unit of weight isn’t a simple equation. That’s because an International Unit is based on the potency or concentration of the substance which varies from substance to substance.

Vitamin D: Converting Biological Activity to Weight

Vitamin D exists in a couple of different forms — cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). There are common vitamin mass equivalents for vitamin A, C, D, and E with each vitamin having a different biological equivalent. See Vitamin Conversion Chart. To get the equivalents of other substances, you would need to ask a pharmacist.

One IU of vitamin D* is the biological equivalent of 0.025 mcg cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol.

How Many IU of Vitamin D Do You Need?   

supplement capsule

Continue reading “Why Vitamin D is Measured in “IU””

Do Your Statin Drugs Cause Muscle Pain?

Myalgia or muscle pain is a common complaint made by patients on cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs. Oftentimes the muscle pain, cramps, weakness, and tenderness become intolerable and patients must discontinue statin drug therapy.

Consequences of Low Vitamin D

A study of over 5,500 patients averaging 56 years old found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency, statin* use, and the development of statin-induced myalgia (SIM). Vitamin D blood levels of 30-40 ng/mL are considered ideal. When patients had low vitamin D levels  (≤15 ng/mL) at the time they started on the statin drug, SIM was accurately predicted.

*60% of the patients used Atorvastatin, a.k.a. Lipitor®
 29% of the patients used Simvastatin, a.k.a. Zocor®

In another study presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions, the following results were presented:

  • 81.3% had SIM when vitamin D levels <30 ng/mL
  • 17.6% had SIM when vitamin D levels >30 ng/mL
  • 62.1% had SIM when vitamin D levels <20 ng/mL
  • Four-fold higher rate of statin-induced myalgias occurred when vitamin D levels <20 ng/mL

They found low vitamin D is common in patients with hyperlipidemia
(abnormal lipid levels) — i.e., high cholesterol, high LDLs, low HDLs, high triglycerides.

Treatment for Statin Intolerance

Consult with your physician about your intolerance to your prescribed statin medication. Statin-induced myalgias are often treated by:     Continue reading “Do Your Statin Drugs Cause Muscle Pain?”

The Sunnier Side of Eggs

USDA reports new data on eggs.
The “New Superfood”

Often shunned by those on low-cholesterol diets, eggs are lower in cholesterol than originally thought.  But beyond that, they’re being hailed as the “new superfood”. Here’s why…

Vitamin A for Healthy Eyes and Skin

Egg yolks are rich in vitamin A, a nutrient necessary for healthy eyes and skin. See Are Carrots Good for Cataracts? and also Eating for Healthy Skin.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin for Good Eyesight

Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin which protect the eyes. These eye-friendly nutrients are yellow-orange-red pigments that accumulate in the lens of the human eye and the central part of the retina (macula) and filter out harmful components of sunlight. They act like “internal sunglasses”.

Vitamin D for Strong Bones

The recent egg analysis also found an egg contains 64 percent more vitamin D. At 41 IU, eggs provide 7-20% of the current daily recommendation.  Vitamin D is a key player in maintaining strong bones.

Choline for Memory

Choline is essential to synthesize acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter, and is necessary for brain function (e.g., preserving memory) and muscle control. Egg yolks are rich is this essential nutrient. A medium egg contains 125 mg choline. It’s recommended that men consume 550 mg choline per day and women 425 mg.

Sensible Protein

If you’re watching your pocketbook or your waistline, eggs are an inexpensive, low-calorie option to get some of your protein*. They’re about 25 cents each and just 70 calories, not to mention a good source of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

*One small  egg contains about 5 g of protein, large (6 g) and jumbo (8 g). To put that in perspective, 1 oz. of meat has about 7 g of protein.

Less Cholesterol

Egg yolks are one of the most concentrated sources of cholesterol, but if you like them, they can still fit into a cholesterol-limiting diet. According to the USDA, an average large egg has 185 mg. of cholesterol which is 14 percent less than last tested in 2002.

Previous tests revealed an egg contained 211 mg. of cholesterol.  To put this number in perspective, eating 300 mg. of cholesterol or less a day is the standard recommendation for controlling or lowering your cholesterol numbers and 200 mg. or less if you have heart disease.

Hen’s New Diet

The USDA reports that the egg’s improved nutritional profile is due in part to hens being raised on better quality feed which consists mainly of corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals.