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Dr. Zorba Paster answers reader questions: Vitamin D, COVID masks and turmeric
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Dr. Zorba Paster answers reader questions: Vitamin D, COVID masks and turmeric

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Dear Doc: I keep on reading about vitamin D, how much to take, what it means, etc. Is there such a thing as taking too much D? I’m a fit senior who wants to live a long life. — DJ from Buffalo

Dear DJ: There are lots of vitamins and supplements that have bitten the dust in the past few years, that is for older folks such as you. C, E, folic acid, beta carotene and even calcium have shown little to no benefit for adults. When it comes to D, the jury is still out.

There is evidence that those with low D levels may have an increased risk of getting COVID-19 and experiencing its complications. African Americans who generally have lower D levels have higher COVID rates — and that might be in part because of D.

How much D to take, if you’re interested, is up for grabs. Some say 1000u is enough, some 2000u and some up to 5000u. Once you get about 5000u, you might run into trouble. There can be toxicity with high D, but that tends to be in the 10,000u range.

I, myself, take 2000u a day. Whether it’s a placebo or not, I’m not sure. But for now I think there is reasonable data that D helps you live that long sweet life that you’re interested in.

Hi, Dr. Paster: Thank you so much for your health columns and your radio program. I enjoy them very much. Your recent article, “We should reward those who accept the vaccine,” caught my interest. I liked the write-up and think it would help to get us to 80% of the population having antibodies against COVID-19. A time magazine article says that I will still need to wear a mask after I’m vaccinated. Ugh! Wish I wouldn’t have to keep wearing that mask. What’s your take? — DN from Madison

Dear DN: Yes, you’re right. Ugh! Who likes a mask? Nobody at all. No one. But yes, it’s true.

We don’t know whether the immunizations really protect us from spreading COVID. It sounds a bit weird, but we might not be sick from COVID but it might live in our airways. No study done yet shows us the answer, so masking up is the only way to go.

Besides what sort of a message is it if some wear a mask and others don’t. It’s mixed up, that’s for sure.

Dear Dr. Paster: Does the dietary supplement turmeric have any proven positive effects other than psychological? The label says it “may help support joint function, mobility and comfort.” — CCS

Dear CCS: Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. From an FDA point of view you can’t say that it works for arthritis as that would mean that it has to be proven by double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, so the workaround is to use the words they use. That allows them to sell their drug just like we sell cosmetics.

My mom used to use Ponds Cold Cream because she said it would make her appear more youthful. Did it work? She thought it did, so she used it every night. Whatever made her look good undoubtedly made her feel good.

Supplements need a low bar when it comes to what they claim. Big Pharma isn’t interested in studying them because they can’t make money on them — that makes sense because it takes many millions of dollars to get a drug to market.

That means you’d need the NIH to fund the research, and they’re often more interested in basic science or fighting diseases such as cancer. That means it will never be studied scientifically.

My spin: Try it several times to see if it works for you. I usually suggest two weeks on, then two weeks off, then repeat that a few times. If it’s a placebo, that effect usually disappears over time.

Zorba Paster: Health advice from 2020

Catch up on any health advice from Dr. Zorba Paster you may have missed in 2020

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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