Sunday, February 2, 2014

Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin

Recently our understanding of vitamin D has expanded greatly. Advocates of vitamin D are convinced that it is a miracle vitamin.

For example vitamin D helps prevent cancer development.  Researchers have found that vitamin D inhibits the growth of some types of cancer cells and also inhibits their spread to other parts of the body.  Taking this observation one step farther, careful population studies have looked at the incidence of various cancers in latitudes that have ample sunshine compared to northern latitudes with less sunshine. It was found that mortality rates for some cancers especially breast, colon, and prostate were lower in sunnier regions than in the northern regions with less sun.  More sun, more vitamin D less cancer.

Deficient vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased incidence of heart attacks.  A study performed at Harvard and published in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine showed that men with deficient vitamin D levels were at greater risk of heart attack than those whose blood levels were sufficient.  Diet and lifestyle factors were also ascertained. During 10 years of follow up it was found that men with low levels had almost a two and a half percent greater risk for having a heart attack.

Hold onto your hats for this one. Vitamin D may also slow aging. This remarkable observation was the result of recent genetic studies that demonstrated an inbuilt "clock" in every cell that counts down every time the cell reproduces itself.  This genetic marker is called leukocyte telomere length {LTL}. Shortening of this marker is a measure of cell aging and ultimately death.

Researchers at King's College London studied more than 2160 women aged between 18 and 79.  They took measurements of the levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream and compared this to the length of the telomeres in their white cells. They found that women with higher levels of vitamin D were more likely to have longer telomeres. Those who had lower levels were more likely to have shorter telomeres.   The professor who led the study said: "These results are exciting because they demonstrate for the first time that people who have higher levels of vitamin D amy age more slowly than people with lower level of vitamin D."

Other studies have demonstrated that vitamin D helps maintain muscle strength, promotes better hearing and may reduce the risk of everything from multiple sclerosis to diabetes and hypertension. Additional work on the health benefits of vitamin D are in progress and the results are forthcoming.

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Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin Part 2

We all need to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D. Agreement on this matter is not uniform among all scientists.  For example the conservative National Institutes of Health web site cautions that more research is needed to determine whether people with normal vitamin D levels can protect themselves by taking more, adding that "it is premature to advise anyone to take vitamin D supplements for cancer prevention."

In previous blogs we discussed the problem of getting consensus from health professionals about the scientific validity of taking more of any specific supplement. The influential Institute of Medicine sets the guidelines for the daily doses of nutrients. They have been reticent to increase their guidelines for vitamin D intake. This adds to the confusion for all of us.

But the scientists who actually study vitamin D aren't waiting for more results. Dr. Rheinhold Viet a vitamin D researcher from the University of Toronto says "I have been studying D for more than 30 years and the remarkable thing is that it is actually effective.  My jaw drops as to why everyone is not taking more D. It drives me nuts."

How much vitamin D should you take? For years the official upper limit for D has been 2,000 IU a day, but a recent review article for the Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that vitamin D is not toxic up to 10,000 IU a day.  This is a combined total from drinking milk, eating fatty fish and vitamin supplementation.

If you have any doubts about how much vitamin D to take have a simple blood test to determine your level of 25 hydroxy vitamin D. The normal levels are 16 to 74 ng/ml. Vitamin D supplementation may be one of the most important nutritional steps that you can take to improve your health and longevity.

Get more information in our book Live Longer Live Healthier

or visit our website at