Vitamin D is was the #1 vitamin of 2008 and will certainly be the most talked about vitamin of 2009. If there is one vitamin in the world that can do more for a person’s health and longevity- vitamin D is it. Fortunately, this vitamin can be made for free, when time is spent in the sun. UV-B light from the sun reacts with our skin, the generate vitamin D. However, to achieve adequate blood levels, most will need to take a vitamin D supplement. Hundreds of studies have been published over the years showing health benefits when one optimizes their blood levels.
Those with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood have less heart attacks, breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and more. Over the last several decades, scientists and physicians have been telling people to avoid the sun or else they put themselves at risk for skin cancer. While this may be true, 95% of skin cancers are not life threatening (non-melanoma). Avoiding the sun completely appears to be dangerous and will actually create more cancers than it prevents. Preventing sun burns however is important.
Who is Deficient?
In my Southern California medical practice, 80% of my patients have vitamin D deficiency, with a blood level below the normal level of 32 ng/ml. Other scientific studies have shown similar results. Few people spend 15 to 20 minutes each day in the sunlight, allowing their face, arms and legs to be exposed. The time required for adequate vitamin D production.
Are Your Bones Healthy?
Thin bones and osteoporosis can affect anyone over age 40, increasing risk of hip fractures. Optimizing vitamin D blood levels will ensure that calcium is absorbed in the gut, keeping bones strong. Unfortunately, most multi-vitamin and calcium supplements only have 400-600 IU of vitamin D, a level too low to get vitamin D blood levels above 32 ng/ml.
High Blood Pressure-
High blood pressure affects about 50 million Americans, or 1 in 4 adults. Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. While there are many reasons a person develops high blood pressure, studies show at men with lower levels of vitamin D were 6 times more likely to have hypertension while woman were almost 3 times more likely to have hypertension. Maintaining a healthy body weight and routine exercise are important in controlling blood pressure.
A study from Germany showed those with lower vitamin D blood levels were 5 times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death when compared to those with higher vitamin D blood levels. Ask your physician to check your vitamin D blood level.
Research has shown that diets low in saturated fats (red meats, cheese, and dairy) and high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent breast cancer. In addition, maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly are also helpful. Studies show that vitamin D can also prevent breast cancer.
Another study showed that those women who lived in geographic areas with more sunlight exposure had a 25% to 65% reduction in breast cancer. Many other studies have shown similar findings.
Two studies, published in 2005 and 2007, showed that those with more vitamin D in their blood could decrease colon cancer risk by 50%. Another study by researchers from researchers at Creighton University concluded, “Improving calcium and vitamin D nutritional status substantially reduces all cancer risk in post-menopausal women,” to the tune of almost 60%.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition in which one’s own immune system destroys the covering of the nerves. This is analogous to a mouse eating the plastic coating on an electrical wire—the result is a type of “short circuit” in the nerve. This short circuit results in numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS affects 1 in 700 people in the U.S. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that those with the highest vitamin D blood levels were 62% less likely to develop MS when compared to those with the lowest levels of vitamin D. Other studies have shown similar findings.
Other conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency-
Numerous other studies that show those with lower vitamin D intake have higher rates of strokes, peripheral artery disease, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, fibromyalgia, falls, fractures, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and much more.
There is no such thing as “vitamin D toxicity”. However, those who take in excess of 10,000 I.U. of vitamin D daily may absorb too much calcium resulting in elevated blood calcium levels. As a result, it is important that people check their blood vitamin D and calcium levels before taking anything over 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily. Those with kidney disease or high blood calcium levels need to consult with their physicians before supplementation.
Check Your Vitamin D Level-
Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D blood level. Most people will need at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily to get there blood levels above 32 ng/ml. In addition, spending 15 minutes each day in the sun, without sunscreen, allowing your arms, faces and legs to be exposed is helpful. Preventing chronic disease is the key to longevity and a quality life. Vitamin D supplementation will likely prove that one vitamin that can actually help us achieve this goal. Best of luck in your journey for a healthier you!