By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN
Chances are you’ve heard a lot about vitamin D lately. For the last couple of years, vitamin D has made its way into headline news on a regular basis.
Originally thought to be the “bone vitamin,” vitamin D is now recognized as a valuable nutrient for the prevention of a number of diseases.
Below is a roundup of the many health benefits that have recently been associated with it.
Vitamin D and Cardiovascular DiseaseCardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Many of us know about most of the traditional risk factors, but so far, there has been very little emphasis on vitamin D’s role in this condition.
Vitamin D protects against blood vessel inflammation and calcium buildup. It can also help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. In contrast, vitamin D deficiencies are associated with atherosclerosis.1
Consider these findings: A study released in 2008 showed that men with low vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to suffer heart attacks.2
Also, heart attacks are more likely to occur in the winter when vitamin D deficiencies are most common.3
Vitamin D and DiabetesVitamin D supplementation has been found to lower blood sugar4 and may even help prevent the development of diabetes.
In one study, children who supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily had a much lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes.5
Scientists are not exactly sure how vitamin D helps to prevent diabetes, but they have discovered that vitamin D limits the production of inflammatory compounds, which could damage the pancreas.6 The pancreas contains beta cells which make insulin.
Vitamin D and DepressionGrowing evidence suggests that vitamin D and depression are interrelated. In a study of over 7,000 people, low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.7
Vitamin D supplementation may be helpful for people suffering depression. In a study of obese patients, high dose vitamin D supplementation (2,800–6,000 IU per day) for one year improved mood.8
Vitamin D and CancerScientists are assessing vitamin D’s ability to reduce the risk of over 17 different cancers.
So far, research has shown optimal vitamin D levels are associated with fewer cancers of the colon,9 breast,10 bladder, esophagus, stomach, cervix, uterus, and pancreas.11
In addition, vitamin D may improve the survival rates of cancer patients. In one study, lung cancer patients who had higher intakes of vitamin D and their cancer surgery in the summer experienced better survival rates.12
Vitamin D and Respiratory InfectionsPeople with higher vitamin D blood levels come down with fewer upper respiratory tract infections.13 This is not surprising, since vitamin D is a powerful regulator of the immune system.
Vitamin D works on many levels to launch an attack against viruses and bacteria that invade our bodies. It activates immune supporting genes14and prevents the uncomfortable symptoms associated with respiratory infections (pain, congestion, fever).15
Vitamin D and StrokeSeveral studies indicate vitamin D-deficient diets increase the risk for stroke.16,17
In one study, more than 700 men and women were followed for up to 10 years. People with low blood levels of vitamin D had an increased risk for stroke, despite other factors such as age and smoking.18
Other research shows vitamin D deficiencies may increase the severity of strokes in animals.19
How to Get Your Vitamin DVitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" because it’s the only vitamin that is produced when our bodies are exposed to sunlight. To increase your own production of vitamin D, you can simply go outside and catch some rays. However, this method might not be very practical for some of you.
Simply put, because of today’s indoor living and working arrangements, few people stay in the sun long enough to actually produce enough vitamin D.
Even those who live in sunny climates often have deficiencies. According to one study, residents in sunny Miami were found to be deficient for at least part of the year.20
So how else can you get enough vitamin D in your system? By taking a high quality vitamin D3 supplement.
How much should you take? Usually, somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily is a good range, but we suggest getting a vitamin D blood test to pinpoint your own blood level. This is the best way to accurately target the right daily dose for you.
In short, you need to take as much vitamin D as your body needs to hit an optimal vitamin D blood level of 50–80 ng/ml.
What You Need to KnowResearchers are starting to realize that vitamin D deficiencies play a pivotal role in the development of many diseases. So, if you haven’t been getting enough, now is probably a good time to make it a priority.
Have you had your own vitamin D blood level checked lately? If not, please consider it today!
- Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2006 Nov;65(5):593-7.
- Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jun 9;168(11):1174-80.
- J Am Coll Cardiol. 1998 May;31(6):1226-33.
- Diabetes Care. 2007 Apr;30(4):980-6. Epub 2007 Feb 2.
- Lancet. 2001 Nov 3;358(9292):1500-3.
- Endocrinology. 2005 Apr;146(4):1956-64.
- Am Heart J. 2010;159:1037-43.
- J Intern Med. 2008;264:599-609.
- J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Oct;97(1-2):179-94.
- Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1991-7.
- Altern Med Rev. 2005 Jun;10(2):94-111.
- Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Oct;14(10):2303-9.
- Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):384-90.
- J Immunol. 2004 Sep 1;173(5):2909-12.
- Blood. 2005 Dec 15;106(13):4351-8.16.
- Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2012 Aug;14(4):414-24.
- Stroke. 2012 Aug;43(8):2163-7. Epub 2012 May 24.
- Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2005 Jun;15(3):188-97.
- Endocrinology. 2012 May;153(5):2420-35. Epub 2012 Mar 9.
- J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;90(3):1557-62.
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