Learning about vitamin D from Michael Holick is like learning the art of magic from Harry Houdini. Greatly reducing the likelihood chronic degenerative disease such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (and many more) is easier than you think once you know the secret. Although no supplement, diet, exercise, or lifestyle change can completely eliminate risk, The Vitamin D Solution will give you incredibly powerful, life-altering information that's as easy as getting some sensible sun exposure or popping a safe, inexpensive pill.
Michael Holick, the world's leading expert on vitamin D, is your guide on this journey of discovery. His pioneering efforts in that field go back to his days as a graduate student when he synthesized the active form of vitamin D, finding it to have extraordinarily powerful therapeutic effects. His contributions as both a scientist and practitioner have made profound advances in every aspect of vitamin D research. Dr. Holick has been a tireless researcher, advocate, author, educator, and legendary lecturer for over 30 years. He stands as the most prolific author of articles published in peer-reviewed medical journals including the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
I have a few predictions. The latter 2/3 of the 20th century will become known as the dark ages, when they demonized the sun, a situation that led to untold suffering and literally millions of largely preventable deaths. Dr. Holick will emerge as a central figure ushering in a new age where sunlight and vitamin D (along with other well-known lifestyle changes) eradicate millions of needless cases of chronic disease. Mainstream medicine will embrace the preventive and therapeutic power of vitamin D, and for his pivotal role bringing about the sea change in the practice of medicine, Dr. Holick will earn a well-deserved Nobel Prize. You heard it here first.
Dr. Holick contends that vitamin D deficiency is the most common medical condition in the world. Being both a researcher and clinician gives him tremendous insights to fortunate readers of this excellent reference. The book opens with two hypothetical pre-teen girls, one living in poverty near the equator and the other living a typical middle class American lifestyle. The list of diseases and medical conditions that are far more common for the middle class girl is shocking. It is no longer debatable that sunlight and vitamin D play major role in preventing a long list of serious chronic diseases, a reality that is becoming more and more accepted by the medical community.
Ideally you should read the entire book in linear fashion, but even if you open the book to random pages you'll find useful information everywhere, such as a new model of cancer that can't grow in a vitamin D-rich environment (page 87); the role of vitamin D in preventing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's (page 140); how vitamin D repairs pancreatic beta cells and thus is an important tool in the fight against diabetes (page 97); the only accurate way to test for vitamin D deficiency (page 147); and a new perspective on what killed the dinosaurs (page 28). I can't go over all 300 pages in this review but I hope you get the idea there is a lot of important information we all need to learn. The book is easy to read, devoid of oppressive jargon, easily accessible to the curious layman, covers the subject reasonably well, and would make an extremely good addition to the library of anyone who understands that good health comes from wise lifestyle choices. For these reasons, I am D-lighted to give the book a solid 5-star rating and the heartiest possible endorsement.
One of my favorite anecdotes involves a baby gorilla on the brink of death when Dr. Holick was called in to help. Classic symptoms of rickets led to an infusion of 5000 IU of vitamin D per day. The patient staged a remarkable recovery and Dr. Holick was the guest of honor at Kirmani's first birthday when she was clearly a happy, healthy, active gorilla. When Dr. Holick presented this story at a vitamin D conference in San Diego (complete with before and after photos) the audience burst into applause. I was there and can attest it was a magic moment. Read about it on page xxiv.
Another amazing story involves a lawyer who supplemented with vitamin D, developed symptoms of overdose, and called Holick to state he was planning to file a malpractice lawsuit. Dr. Holick had the lawyer send him the bottle of capsules which he thoroughly tested, only to find that due to a horrific manufacturing error the lawyer was actually taking over 1,000,000 IU a day. So instead of facing a grueling lawsuit, Dr. Holick acquired an important body of data since vitamin D overdoses are exceedingly rare. (Read about it on page 47.) The lawsuit was dropped, the lawyer quickly recovered, and we have valuable information about diagnosing and treating vitamin D overdose. Everyone wins.
Are there any negatives or downsides to this book? All my comments speak to the controversial nature of vitamin D where experts disagree in many areas. For instance, Holick states that D2 is equally as effective as D3 (page 217), yet the vast majority of researchers state that D3 is more bioavailable and stays in the system longer. On page 251 Holick states magnesium is unrelated to the uptake of vitamin D, which directly contradicts other experts. Holick generally avoids the details of studies that lead to various conclusions, which could be viewed either as a plus (easier to read) or a minus (lack of supporting evidence). There are more like this but I don't want to dwell on minutae. No two vitamin D experts see eye-to-eye on all aspects of this complex, confusing, confrontational subject. But this book contains so much solid, essential information it would be recommended reading for anyone even if they have minor disagreements here and there.
On page 214 Dr. Holick touches on a subject of utmost importance: Why can't the Institute of Medicine get it right when determining recommended vitamin D supplementation levels? The problem lies primarily in the guidelines of evidence-based medicine that only allows input from research reported in peer reviewed medical journals. Because pharmaceutical companies have no incentive to support research costing tens of millions of dollars to prove the value of an extremely inexpensive supplement, vitamin D studies tend to be of the lower-credibility observational type. Because medical science views this as a lack of compelling evidence the industry is hesitant to actively endorse vitamin D, and we all suffer as a result. I wish this flaw was exposed in a more forceful way but I'm glad at least was mentioned to give readers of this book some valuable insights. As a side note, The Institute for Functional Medicine promotes a system that sidesteps the flaws inherent in evidence-based medicine, and Dr. Mark Hyman, their most visible spokesman, provided a strongly supportive testimonial appearing on the back cover.
Here's the good news: You don't have to wait for the Institute of Medicine, the medical profession, or even your family doctor to jump onboard in order to benefit from the magic of vitamin D. However, you need to do your homework and that's where The Vitamin D Solution comes in. Dr. Michael Holick has done a superb job presenting information that will help you achieve optimal health. Read, it, study it, think about it, understand it, and most importantly, put it into action to get your 25(OH)D level above 50 ng/mL. (For most people that requires daily regimen of about 5000 IU.) The life you save may be your own.