Vitamin D is one of the most useful nutritional tools we have at our disposal for improving overall health. It is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because the body can manufacture it from exposure to sun light. However, with today’s processed foods, so much indoor living and the extensive use of sunscreen due to concerns about skin cancer, we are now a society with millions of individuals deficient in this life-sustaining, bone building and immune modulating vitamin. Numerous scientists feel that supplementation with vitamin D is critical to helping maintain optimal health.
Most of us have heard that adequate levels of vitamin D are essential for ensuring normal absorption of calcium to fight osteoporosis. There are so many other areas of health vitamin D is involved with. A study out of the University of Calgary found that 97% of the population suffers from insufficient levels of vitamin D. The conclusion of this study reads: “people of all ages should consider vitamin D supplementation.”
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency has serious consequences and is now being recognized as an epidemic in the United States. Deficiencies can manifest themselves in many different ways that extend well beyond bone health, including cardiovascular problems, blood sugar imbalances, cognitive impairment, back pain, depression, macular degeneration and even certain cancers. The cancers most influenced were those of the digestive system, including cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas and colon.
A 2009 study showed that a daily dose of vitamin D reduced PSA levels — an indicator of the possible existence of prostate cancer in men — by as much as half in 20 percent of patients. A 2007 US study of more than 30,000 women found that those with adequate levels of vitamin D were up to 40 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer before menopause.
Vitamin D plays a role in cardiovascular health as well. Men with low levels of vitamin D had double the risk of cardiovascular disease than men with sufficient levels. Another study found that vitamin D can counter the effects of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
US researchers from Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, NY, determined 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 to viruses and bacteria and they concluded that the decline in vitamin D levels between November and March could be the reason for the peak in colds and flu during the winter months. Vitamin D acts as an immune system modulator, preventing excessive expression of inflammation and increases the killing efficiency of our killer cells.
D is really important to the elderly. It was found that supplementation with vitamin D helped prevent falling in older people. After one year of receiving supplementation, the group receiving the vitamin D had significantly fewer falls. Scientists are also developing a greater appreciation for vitamin D’s ability to improve cognitive function in older adults. In yet another enlightening study, Psoriasis sufferers had improvements with vitamin D supplementation. For those dieting, and who isn’t… vitamin D turns down the appetite control in the brain.
Vitamin D also improves mood. When John Denver sang the lyrics “sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy,” he instinctively knew what a scientific study confirmed. Vitamin D has mood-elevating effects. In a double blind study conducted in Australia during the winter, supplementation with 400 IU per day of vitamin D for five days significantly improved mood in healthy young adult volunteers.
There is a link between vitamin D and pain. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various types of nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have shown a correlation between inadequate vitamin D levels and the amount of narcotic medication taken by patients who have chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Researchers measured levels of vitamin D in women in the US. The study revealed that patients with low back pain had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than women with higher levels.
Rickets, a disease that involves the softening of bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity is often found in underdeveloped countries and is not common in America. Overt disease is quite different from having our immune systems work less efficiently due to nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin D plays such an important role in keeping our immune systems functioning optimally which is the key to maintaining good health. Challenged by infections, excess stress, pollution, radiation, toxins and consuming a less than optimal diet, most of us need to look to supplementing with this protective, immune enhancing vitamin!