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

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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?”

Why Supplements Can Make You Sick

pills_dollarphotoclub_65086147_smallerIn 2011 I reported on dietary supplement safety and warned that supplements are not risk-free. Today, based on the cease-and-desist letters sent to major retailers by the New York attorney general, there’s even more evidence that you should be wary of supplements on store shelves.

According to the FDA, makers of the following are not required to show their products are safe or effective before they go on the market:

  • Herbs or other botanicals
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids
  • Other raw ingredients

That’s because over 20 years ago, President Clinton signed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Under this law, supplements do NOT need FDA approval before they’re sold. This lack of oversight has caused serious illnesses and irreversible health effects.

Per a Congressional investigation in 2010, dietary supplements were found to contain the following:

  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic)
  • Pesticides
  • Filth and bacteria
  • Prescription drugs
  • Super/subpotent vitamins and minerals
  • Toxic compounds

Phony Herbal Supplements Sold by Major Retailers   

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Supplement Safety – Part 2 | The Men’s Health Minute

Dietary supplements are popular, but you can’t assume they’re safe and effective because they’re on store shelves.

Supplement Safety – Part 1 | The Men’s Health Minute

Nutritional supplements are intended to provide nutrients that you may be missing from your diet. Here’s why you need to be a savvy consumer.