Are you getting enough…. Vitamin D?
In November 2013, I attended a medical seminar at McMaster University on the topic of Vitamin D put on by Grassroots Health, a consortium of scientists, institutions and individuals acting to fund studies, raise awareness and solve what they believe is a vitamin D deficiency epidemic. There were several speakers at this event including two leading researchers in vitamin D and they produced a compelling argument for vitamin D supplementation into our daily diet. There was also a clear consensus among this group that up to 90% of North Americans are not getting enough vitamin D to achieve the potential benefits of this important, inexpensive and safe vitamin. This article is a summation of information presented at this event.
Vitamin D is crucial for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, which have various bodily functions, especially the maintenance of healthy bones, but as you will see below, there are many other benefits that come from this important vitamin. These include:
- Up To 80% Breast Cancer Reduction! – Vitamin D appears to help reduce incidences of several cancers with breast cancer and colon cancer topping the list. Studies have shown that women with vitamin D serum levels of 200 nmol/l have an 80% reduction in breast cancer. There is an almost linear relationship between breast cancer and women’s vitamin D serum levels. This is a very significant finding that cannot be understated.
- Vitamin D And Cancer Risk – Various studies have shown that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have a significantly lower risk of developing many forms of cancer, compared to those whose levels are low. Proper serum levels can reduce colon cancer by 50%! This is no small potatoes. Vitamin D deficiency was found to be prevalent in cancer patients regardless of nutritional status in a study carried out by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
- Immune System Regulator – It may be an important way to arm the immune system against disorders like the common cold, say scientists from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston.
- Osteoporosis, and Bone Health – As previously mentioned, Vitamin D is crucial for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous for the maintenance of healthy bones. The best way of ensuring that your body is absorbing the calcium that you are consuming is to supplement with vitamin D.
- Multiple Sclerosis Risk – It may reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is much less common the nearer you get to the tropics, where there is much more sunlight, according to Dennis Bourdette, chairman of the Department of Neurology and director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center at Oregon Health and Science University, USA.
- Other Autoimmune Disorders – Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes are all autoimmune disorders. Genes involved in autoimmune disease and many cancers appear to be regulated by vitamin D.
- Vitamin D and your Muscles – Studies looking at vitamin D’s role in muscle health found that reduced vitamin D levels had a significant effect on muscle weakness, pain, balance and fractures in aging individuals. Several observational studies have suggested that vitamin D status influences muscular strength and function in the elderly. Findings in regard to muscle tissue and function suggest that vitamin D status may have a significant effect on muscle performance and injury prevention. For more on this topic view my post Vitamin D and Your Muscles.
- Maintaining Cognitive Functions – Vitamin D may play a key role in helping the brain keep working well in later life, according to a study of 3000 European men between the ages of 40 and 79.
- Healthy Body Weight – Vitamin D probably plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight, according to research carried out at the Medical College of Georgia, USA.
- Asthma Symptoms And Frequency – It can reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms, and also the likelihood of hospitalizations due to asthma, researchers from Harvard Medical School found after monitoring 616 children in Costa Rica.
- Protection From Radiation Damage – One form of vitamin D could be one of our body’s main protections against damage from low levels of radiation, say radiological experts from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- Pregnancy Complications – Once again, there appears to be a linear relationship between a mother’s serum vitamin D levels and premature deliveries and other pregnancy complications.
- T.B. Recovery – High vitamin D doses can help people recover from tuberculosis more rapidly, researchers reported in September 2012 in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
- Heart Attack Risk – A study published in September 2012 suggested that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of heart attack and early death.
- Blood Pressure Control – Vitamin D has also been shown to help control blood pressure.
Dosage- Without a blood serum test for vitamin D there is no accurate method for determining how much vitamin D supplementation you should be taking and unfortunately OHIP no longer covers this test unless you are at risk for certain diseases. Experts on the Vitamin D Action panel recommended 5000 international units per day. These experts also recommended that you consume a product with only vitamin D (not vitamin D and another vitamin or mineral in the same capsule). Overdosing is almost not an issue with vitamin D. Even at 10,000 international units per day (250 micrograms) there are no known side effects.
Can you get vitamin D from the sun? Yes, but here in Canada there is no way for you to get enough vitamin D during the six coldest months of the year. As a rule, you need at least 15 minutes of sunlight on as much of your skin as possible at a time of the day when your shadow is shorter that your height (mid day). Where I live in Niagara the sun reaches 50 degrees above the horizon at mid-day (which is the minimum sun angle that is required for us to manufacture vitamin D), from March 29 to September 14. Outside of those dates we need to look at supplementation.
For more on this topic I suggest you go to the following website operated by Grassroots Health. Their initiative, The D*action project is an international public health project involving a consortium of scientists, institutions and individuals acting to fund studies, raise awareness and solve what they believe is a vitamin D deficiency epidemic. They can be found at: http://www.grassrootshealth.net/
For all things vitamin D here is the largest clearing house of Vitamin D research and information: http://www.vitamindwiki.com/VitaminDWiki
An excellent series of evidence-based videos on vitamin D can be found at Nutritionfacts.org
*Note- This site does not provide medical advice. All information contained in is for information purposes only. Before making changes to your vitamin regime be sure to talk to your primary health care provider first.