Back in 2008, there was an extensive review of the health benefits of vitamin D, conducted by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon and the European Institute of Oncology in Milan. The results of this six year study showed that people who took vitamin D supplements on a regular basis had a 7 per cent lower risk of death overall.
Seven per cent may not sound like a lot, but these results certainly provide yet another good reason to take vitamin D supplements for good health. Especially when you consider that the body’s capacity to manufacture vitamin D declines with age and that vitamin D deficiency in the elderly is relatively common.
The one and only super vitamin
Since 2008, vitamin D’s popularity has increased tremendously and more and more of this fat-soluble vitamin’s super-powers have been revealed.
This key vitamin is produced when the skin is exposed to UV radiation from sunlight. A few minutes in the sun, each day, generates enough vitamin D to harness and protect against numerous diseases.
Earlier studies have found that vitamin D plays a key role in protecting against cancer, heart disease and diabetes – conditions that account for 60 to 70 per cent of all deaths in the West.
In fact, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to hypertension, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and rickets. This alone should be enough reason to ensure that you’re maintaining optimum levels of vitamin D, but if you need a bit more convincing, then here are a few more very good reasons illustrating the health-protective properties of vitamin D:
* Colds and Flu: US Researchers from Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, found that giving supplements of vitamin D to a group of volunteers reduced the occurrence of colds and flu by 70 per cent over three years. The researchers said that the vitamin stimulated natural immunity against viruses and bacteria.
* Heart Disease: A US study by the University of California, of almost 10,000 women over the age of 65, found that those who took vitamin D supplements had a 31 per cent lower risk of dying of heart disease. German researchers at the University of Bonn also found lower levels of vitamin D in patients with chronic heart failure.
* Cancer: US researchers from the University of San Diego reviewed 63 scientific studies published since the 1960s and concluded that a daily dose of 1,000 international units (25 micrograms) was necessary to optimize vitamin D levels. Writing in the American Journal of Public Health, they added that vitamin D deficiency might account for several thousand premature deaths from colon, breast, ovarian and other cancers annually.
* Diabetes: Researchers followed 12,000 children born in 1966 until 1997 and found that those who developed rickets, indicating vitamin D deficiency, were three times more likely to become diabetic.
* Multiple Sclerosis: This condition is more common in countries further from the equator: gloomy Chicago has a higher rate than sunny Florida, for example. Cloudy Scotland has the highest rate of MS in the world.
A study published in 2004, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggested that people who spent more time in the sun had a lower risk of MS than those who stayed out of it.
* Autism: John Cannell, a psychiatrist and vitamin D advocate, believes that vitamin D deficiency could be behind the explosion in autism. According to Cannell, the mainstream’s advice to avoid the sun and cover up since the 1980s has paralleled the rise in autism. In support of Cannell, Dr Richard Mills, research director at the National Autistic Society, said: “There has been speculation about autism being more common in high-latitude countries that get less sunlight, and a tie-up with rickets has been suggested – observations which support the theory.”
Just can’t get enough
Vitamin D is the exception when it comes to those who argue that you can get enough vitamins by eating a healthy balanced diet, because it is made by the action of sunlight on the skin. This accounts for 90 per cent of the body’s supply. Very little comes from food.
Unfortunately the increased use of sun blocks and the fact that more of us are spending less time outdoors, has contributed to the fact that many of us are now vitamin D deficient. It’s been reported that one in seven adults, in the UK, are vitamin D deficient, because the sun in Britain, during the winter months, is barely strong enough to help the body make the vitamin naturally… and by springtime, 60 per cent of the UK population is vitamin D deficient. (Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a blood level below 30ng per millilitre).
Vitamin D lasts for approximately 60 days in the body. This is why it’s so important to top it up regularly. The best way to do this is by spending about twenty minutes twice a week in the sun exposing your hands, arms and face in particular, to maintain reserves. In the US, the recommended supplementary dose is 400 international units (IU) a day, but there is no recommended supplementary dose in the UK. Some scientists say that 2,000 IU of vitamin D is necessary to prevent disease.
If you need to take a vitamin D supplement, the best kind to take is vitamin D3, which is the closest to the vitamin D our bodies create naturally.
UK Editor HIS Alert