Vitamin D Goes Far Beyond Bone Health

Scientists have known for decades that Vitamin D plays a vital role in Skeleton "Flexing" Humerus Boneproducing healthy bones. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium, which is necessary for bone development, bone remodeling and preventing bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis later on in life.  For centuries, we primarily obtained vitamin D from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which was easily achieved when humans worked predominately outside.  However, we now spend most of our working days indoors, only longing to be outside enjoying the sun.

Recent research has demonstrated just how widespread low vitamin D levels are throughout our society. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency in some North American groups is as high as 80%. The elderly and pregnant women seem to be especially susceptible, and it is also a bigger problem for people with dark skin, which is not as efficient in producing vitamin D from sun exposure.

Woman being warmed by sunshine, looking happyWhere you live also impacts your vitamin D levels. If you live in the Northern United States or Canada (!!), you’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient as the longer, darker winters in these areas restrict sunlight hours.  Another complication is that despite the importance of the sun to vitamin D synthesis, it is prudent to limit our skin exposure to the sun and UV radiation (from tanning beds).   UV radiation is a carcinogen responsible for most cases of skin cancer.

Another factor, which complicates getting sufficient levels of vitamin D is that it is difficult to obtain through our diet.  Natural sources of vitamin D are few and most of us cannot get our required levels of vitamin D solely from foods that we eat.  Some of the foods that are high is vitamin D include; cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel and fortified milk and orange juice.

 

Surprising Research:

In the last 5 years there has been a steady stream of news on vitamin D and silhouette of person standing in front of sunriseits wide-ranging effects on preventing diseases and improving chronic health problems. According to a review of vitamin D published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who consumed vitamin D supplements had an overall lower risk of death from any cause. Other research has produced compelling evidence of vitamin D’s impact on cancer.  At the University of California, researchers discovered that consuming 1000IU of vitamin D daily slashed the risk of colon, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers up to 50%. Other studies have revealed reductions in all cancer occurrences in men & women taking vitamin D and amazing 45% reduction in deaths caused by digestive cancers.

This versatile vitamin may also provide additional support for weight loss. Some research demonstrated that participants involved in a calorie-restricting diet, saw a greater reduction in abdominal fat as well as losing more weight, when thet increased their levels of vitamin D.

Muscle Pain & Vitamin D

A deficiency in vitamin D may also play a role in muscle pain. Patients who were suffering from non-specific muscular pain were found to have unusually low levels of vitamin D, according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. A study in Spine showed that 83% of low back pain sufferers also had insufficient levels of vitamin D. When their vitamin D intake was boosted, nearly all of the patients showed improvement in pain symptoms. This deficiency in vitamin D has also been demonstrated in children, an age group that had previously been considered at low risk.

Other investigations show vitamin D has a positive impact on rheumatoid arthrtitis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.