(NaturalNews) Ignored for years, today vitamin D is a superstar. Here`s what you need to know about this vitally important nutrient, including how to make certain you`re getting enough vitamin D to protect your health.
According to conventional wisdom, we should be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. But vitamin D is shaping up as an exception to that rule. Although it was discovered nearly 100 years ago, vitamin D was long believed to have only one important role, maintaining healthy bones. As a result, it was added to milk in the 1930s, as a way to combat the high incidence of rickets in children and then pretty much forgotten.
How things change! During the past decade, a steady stream of news from researchers all over the world is proving that vitamin D helps protect us against such serious health concerns as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, several types of cancer (including breast, colon and prostate), diabetes, emotional difficulties, such as depression and bipolar disorder, muscle function and gum health.
And there`s more! Just consider this small sampling of good news from the vitamin D front:
*Vitamin D supports better brain function in older individuals, according to the findings of a recent clinical trial. Researchers at Tufts University found the best cognitive test scores among subjects with high blood levels of the nutrient. Those with high levels of vitamin D were better at "executive functions," such as organizing, planning and thinking in the abstract.
*Vitamin D`s role in how well our muscles operate was underscored by a new study showing that low levels of the nutrient during pregnancy makes a woman four times more likely to have a cesarean section. The same researchers were also struck by separate findings showing that fully three-fourths of the women in the study and their babies had low vitamin D levels, even though they had been taking prenatal vitamins and drinking vitamin D-fortified milk while pregnant. Coincidentally, a new study from Turkey found that infants with low vitamin D levels are more vulnerable to developing respiratory infections.
*Add prostate cancer to the list of cancers vitamin D may help protect against. Findings reported in the British Journal of Cancer show that the disease resulted in six times fewer fatalities for men with the most vitamin D in their bodies when compared to men with lower levels.
*There`s more news on the cancer front, too. A recent review of research involving vitamin D, cancer and sunlight (ultraviolet B or UVB) concluded that sun-associated vitamin D was linked to lower levels of colon and breast cancers, as well as kidney and ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
What`s the sunlight connection? Our bodies can produce vitamin D on their own when exposed to sunlight. Sounds simple, right? Even though making that happen only takes about 20 minutes of daily sun exposure (and please work up to that amount gradually, to avoid burning), there are actually a few factors that may interfere. First, the skin must be free of sunscreen, sun blocks and clothing, which all interfere with the process.
Second, the sunlight-vitamin D conversion process is not nearly as effective for people of color. Third, age plays a role; individuals over age 50 are not efficient converters, so even with proper sun exposure, they`re likely to be deficient in the nutrient. Finally, there`s geography. Sunlight during winter months is not intense enough in areas north of Los Angeles, so no amount of sun exposure will help.
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent and most people are getting too little of this important nutrient! Similar figures were found in a new analysis of federal government health data; researchers reported too little vitamin D in three-fourths of Americans surveyed. Just twenty years ago, that figure was strikingly lower -- only one half of the population was deficient in vitamin D.
A simple blood test is all that`s required to determine your levels, so every doctor needs to encourage everyone to do this annually. Your physician can recommend appropriate supplements of vitamin D3, the preferred form.
Supplements are necessary because only a few foods are helpful when it comes to increasing vitamin D intake, including salmon, sardines and mackerel. But even if you eat those foods, it`s difficult to obtain the daily dose of 1,000 to 2,000 IU and in many cases, 5,000 IU -- recommended by many health authorities from diet alone. Even the conservative federal government guidelines -- 200 IU for adults up to age 50, 400 IU between 51 and 70 and 800 IU for those 71 and up -- are unlikely to be achieved just through diet. And be aware that the adult doses are currently under review, since so many authorities believe they are inadequate. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently upped its recommendation for children from 200 IU to 400 IU daily.
One caution: As with most things in life, moderation is a worthy goal. Baking in the sun without sunscreen for hours or taking mega-doses of supplements are not good ways to fortify your body with vitamin D. Follow the experts` guidelines, enjoy some time in the sun, ideally 30 minutes daily in the peak of the day without sunscreen, eat well and provide your body with reasonable amounts of the supplements it needs to work best, and you will notice a difference in your health!
Buell JS, Scott TM, Dawson-Hughes B, et al. "Vitamin D is associated with cognitive function in elders receiving home health services." The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 2009 Aug;64(8): 888-95.
Herewood A. Mehta SD, Chen TC, et al. "Association between vitamin D deficiency and primary cesarean section." Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2009 Mar;94(3):940-5.
Tezer H, Siklar Z, Dallar Y, et al. "Early and severe presentation of vitamin D deficiency and nutritional rickets among hospitalized infants and the effective factors." Turkish Journal of Pediatrics 2009 Mar-Apr;51(2):110-5.
Tretli S, Hernes E, Berg JP, et al. "Association between serum 25(OH)D and death from prostate cancer." British Journal of Cancer 2009 Feb 10;100(3):450-4.
Grant WB, Garland CF, Gorham ED. "An estimate of cancer mortality rate reductions in Europe and the US with 1,000 IU of oral vitamin D per day." Recent Results in Cancer Research 2007;174:225-34.
About the author
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. has specialized in Integrative Medicine for over twenty years, using conventional and natural methods to determine and discover the "root of the cause" in her clinic, Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California, each and every day. Many people come in to the clinic from all over the world with severe chronic illnesses that conventional medical protocols have been unsuccessful treating. She realized early on that she can truly change lives through education as well as treatment protocols. Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. and her medical staff strives to look at the whole person while exploring the effects and relationships among nutrition, psychological and social factors, environmental effects and personal attunement. Out of frustration of trying to find the right products to help her patients she formulated the perfectlyhealthy brand of products. All perfectlyhealthy products are clinically tested. For more information on recommended products, please visit www.perfectlyhealthy.net or www.perfectlyhealthy.com.