Vitamin D deficiency is quickly emerging as one of the greatest risk factors for a wide variety of diseases. It is also one of the most common deficiencies, especially here in the Northwest. It is however, easily remedied.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to at least 17 forms of cancer, neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, skin issues, calcium and bone metabolism issues, muscle pain and weakness, macular degeneration, mental illness, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, colds and flues, and the list goes on. It seems to play no small part in many of these diseases.
For instance, people with adequate levels of Vitamin D have a 30 – 50 percent less likelihood of developing many types of cancer. For those people who did develop cancer, one study even showed that in most types of lung cancer, people with the highest Vitamin D intake had double the 5-year survival rate than those with the lowest!
Musculoskeletal pain, especially low back pain, is also common in people with Vitamin D deficiency. One study found that chronic pain was three times more common among those people with the lowest Vitamin D levels. Additionally, many geriatric units across the country are now supplementing Vitamin D to their patients because they’ve found that it helps to prevent muscle weakness, thereby significantly reducing the amount of falls in their facilities.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with depression. People with the highest levels of Vitamin D had a “higher overall sense of well-being,” according to one study. Who couldn’t use that?
One fairly recent discovery is Vitamin D’s role in maintaining a healthy immune system. It is believed that one reason people get sick more often in the wintertime is secondary to a seasonal deficiency in Vitamin D. One study found that supplementation with 2000 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D per day “virtually eliminated self-reported incidences of colds and influenza.”
How We Get Vitamin D
Our bodies obtain Vitamin D from sunlight exposure, diet, and supplementation. When fair-skinned people sunbathe in the summer, they produce approximately 20,000 IU of Vitamin D in less than 30 minutes. Obviously, sun exposure is a very efficient way to obtain Vitamin D. However, sun exposure does increase skin aging and burning increases rates of melanoma.
Diet provides about 250 – 300 IU per day. Fish oil, liver, and milk are some of the richest sources. However, you would need to drink about 30 glasses of milk per day for three months or more to raise the average person’s levels up to healthy, disease-preventing levels.
Supplementation with Vitamin D is another way that we can obtain adequate levels, of course. Most adults need 2000–4000 IUs per day to raise and maintain Vitamin D at healthy levels. This is more than most conventional doctors recommend or are comfortable with, but this is what the research is showing. There have been no credible incidences reported in the literature showing toxicity with up to 10,000 IU per day of Vitamin D. What few incidences have been reported were from faulty industrial production, labeling errors, dosing errors, and in patients treated medically with high doses of synthetic Vitamin D, called ergocalciferol. (Most Vitamin D and the kind you should take is called cholecalciferol.)
Incidence of Vitamin D Deficiency
Most people have blood levels of 10 – 18 ng/ml in the wintertime, or if they spend the majority of their time out of the sunlight. Major decreases in cancer and other diseases have been shown when blood levels are at least 30 ng/ml. For instance, levels of 33 ng/ml were associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of colon cancer, and levels of 52 ng/ml were associated with a 50% reduction of breast cancer. Natural levels, that is, levels found in humans who live or work in the sun, are approximately 50 – 70 ng/ml.
Many factors influence one’s levels of Vitamin D, including geographic location, skin color (darker skin people produce less Vitamin D from sunlight exposure than do lighter skinned people), use of sunscreen, weight, age, diet, digestion, etc. Blood testing is recommended to find out what your levels of Vitamin D are and to monitor therapy. The test you want your doctor to run is called 25-hydroxy-Vitamin D.
Having adequate levels of Vitamin D is one of the biggest factors in preventing a wide variety of serious diseases. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common; in fact, most people are deficient, especially in the wintertime. Blood testing is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to find out what your levels are. And supplementation with Vitamin D is a very inexpensive and easy way to help ensure optimal health.