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Experts divided on vitamin D

>Q. I have been looking for an explanation of safe levels of vitamin D. There is a lot of confusing information about this. I know that too little is dangerous, but what about too much?

One doctor told me that high levels of vitamin D could cause atherosclerosis. Another said that is not true and advocates levels of 90 nanograms/milliliter (ng/ml) or higher to prevent or reverse osteoporosis.

Since this bone disease runs in my family, I am anxious to know where I should set my vitamin D goal.

A. No wonder you are confused. Experts are divided about optimal vitamin D levels.

People who are too low are at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, depression and heart disease, as well as bone loss (osteoporosis).

There also are several studies linking low levels of vitamin D to a higher risk of cancer. One study found, however, that elderly Swedish men were equally likely to develop cancer if their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were above 40 or under 18 ng/ml (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2010).

For more information about the pros and cons of this nutrient and how to improve your level safely, we are sending you our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. D-23, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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>Q. When I developed symptoms of severe depression, the psychiatrist focused only on my anxiety and prescribed antipsychotics. I gained 60 pounds in three months.

My depression expanded as if the doctor had applied helium to my blue balloon. Obesity made me unrecognizable, and I went back to smoking. I was disgusted with myself.

My next physician paid attention to my nightmare and took me off the antipsychotics. I lost 30 pounds in three months. I've survived this ordeal, but I still have a long way to go to get back to normal. I wish doctors would be more careful when prescribing antipsychotic medications.

A. Second-generation antipsychotic medications such as Abilify, Geodon, Seroquel and Zyprexa have been linked to serious weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes (Pharmacology and Therapeutics, September 2010). We're sorry you have suffered such a nightmare. People need to be warned about this complication before they start taking drugs like these for depression.

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>Q. What is the home remedy for getting rid of skin tags on the neck?

A. Dermatologists can remove skin tags surgically. Some readers of this column also report success with a liquid bandage called New-Skin. Although this remedy doesn't work for everyone, here is one testimonial: "I tried the liquid New-Skin on my skin tags. I apply two coats one time per day. Within a week to 10 days, they shrivel up and fall off. Thanks for a great tip!"

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