Vitamin D for Disease Control

Being deficient in vitamin D is linked to a 60 percent increased risk of heart attack or stroke, according to a Framingham Study.

Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus so it is essential to proper bone and tooth formation. It also plays an important role in nerve and muscle function. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in food and can also be made in your body after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Sunshine is a significant source of vitamin D because UV rays from sunlight trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin.

Vitamin D exists in several forms, each with a different level of activity. Calciferol is the most active form of vitamin D. Other forms are relatively inactive in the body. The liver and kidney help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form.

Vitamin D and Inflammation

This nutrient’s ability to quell inflammation may be the main reason why recent research keeps finding more D-related roles in achieving optimal health. Low blood levels of D have long been connected to inflammatory ailments like arthritis and gum disease. Now, researchers know that inflammation promotes insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. So it’s no coincidence that ample vitamin D is now often promoted as a disease defender.

Findings from a German clinical trial show how D may fend off inflammation: Participants with congestive heart failure who took 2,000 International Units of Vitamin D3 (the best absorbed form of the nutrient) for nine months had stable levels of pro-inflammatory substances and increases in anti-inflammatory blood markers. Those who didn’t get the extra D experienced increases in pro-inflammatory markers with no increases in the anti-inflammatory substances.

Biologic Function

Vitamin D3 supplements provide more health benefits than vitamin D2 supplements, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that people who take vitamin D3 supplements have higher vitamin D levels in their blood, indicating that the body more effectively converts this form of vitamin D into the hormone responsible for health benefits.

Liquid Vitamin D3 is safe for all ages and easy to take. Kids to Senior Citizens can easily accept a drop of great tasting Liquid Vitamin D3. No swallowing pills needed.

The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. By promoting calcium absorption, vitamin D helps to form and maintain strong bones.

Vitamin D also works in concert with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones to promote bone mineralization. Without vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.

Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, two forms of skeletal diseases that weaken bones. Research also suggests that vitamin D may help maintain a healthy immune system and help regulate cell growth and differentiation, the process that determines what a cell is to become.

Low blood levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, especially for people with high blood pressure, according to researchers with the Framingham Heart Study. They followed 1,739 men and women for almost 5-1/2 years and found that participants with low blood levels of Vitamin D were 62 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those with higher levels. For those with low Vitamin D levels AND high blood pressure, cardiovascular risk doubled.

Although milk is fortified with vitamin D, dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice creams, are generally not fortified with vitamin D and contain only small amounts. Some ready-to-eat breakfast cereals may be fortified with vitamin D, often at a level of 10 to 15 percent of the Daily Value. There are only a few commonly consumed foods that are good sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin D and Falls

Roughly a third of of all women over age 65 fall each year, and 20 to 30 percent of them suffer a serious injury like a hip fracture. Now researchers have more evidence that vitamin D could curb some falls. Australian scientists gave vitamin D (1,000 IU a day) or a placebo to some 300 women aged 70 to 90. All had low blood levels of vitamin D (less than 24 nanograms per milliliter) and a history of having fallen the previous year. Both groups also got calcium (1000 mg a day).

Among the women who fell only once during the one-year study, 36 py ercent of the placebo takers — but only 25 percent of the vitamin D takers — fell during the winter or spring. What to do? If you’re middle aged or older, take a daily supplement with 1,000 IU of vitamin D. A supplement is inexpensive and the risk of consuming too much vitamin D is low. Other studies suggest that vitamin D prevents falls by boosting muscle strength and improving balance. Vitamin D may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses.

Men and Vitamin D

Inadequate vitamin D levels in men may significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack. That’s what findings from a group of men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggest. In the study, researchers found that men with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack as those with the highest D levels, even after controlling for family history of heart attack, physical activity, diabetes, high blood pressure and body mass index. Even levels that were suboptimal – but not deficient- raised heart attack risk.

Vitamin D and Insulin

For those who suffer from high blood pressure, taking Vitamin D and calcium may kep it from rising further. Researchers randomly assigned 314 people without diabetes to take either a daily placebo or both calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (700 IU) every day for three years as part of a study designed to look at bone strength.

Among the 92 people who started the study with blood sugar levels in the high-but-not-diabetic range (100 to 125 mg/dL); those who took vitamin D and calcium had a smaller average rise in fasting blood sugar (0.4 mg/dL) than those who took the placebo (6 mg/dL). Insulin resistance also increased less in the vitamin D and calcium takers.

Vitamin D and calcium had no impact on the blood sugar of the 222 people who had normal fasting blood sugar levels (less than 100 mg/dL) when the study began. What to do: If you have higher than normal blood sugar, make sure you’re getting enough calcium (1,200 mg a day) and vitamin D (1000 IU a day) from healthy foods and supplements.

Vitamin D and Cancer

Researchers gave 1,179 Nebraska women over age 55, daily doses of vitamine D (1,100 International Units) plus calcium (1,400 to 1,500 milligrams), calcium alone, or a placebo. After four years, cancers — most often breast — were diagnosed in 7 percent of the women who took the placebo, 4 percent of the women who took calcium alone, and just 2 percent of the women who took both vitamin D and calcium.

This study did have too few cancers to be the final word on whether vitamin D does in fact prevent cancer; however, it is worth taking 1,000 IU a day along with 1,200mg of calcium to protect your bones.

There was one other trial that tested vitamin D on cancer and that was the Women’s Health Initiative. They found no lower risk of colorectal cancer but they used a much lower dose (400 IU a day). However, in both studies mentioned, women who started the study with higher blood levels of vitamin D had a lower risk of cancer.

Vitamin D and the Heart

Can vitamin D protect the heart? Researchers tracked more than 1,700 participants in the Framingham Offspring Study for five years. Among men and women who entered the study with high blood pressure, those who had low blood levels of vitamin D (less than 15 ng/mL) were twice as likely to have a heart attack, angina, stroke, heart failure, or other cardiovascular event than those who started with higher vitamin D levels.

No matter what your blood pressure, take a daily supplement with 1,000 IU of vitamin D. Even if it doesn’t protect your heart, it may lower your risk of brittle bones and possibly falls, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and peridontal disease.

Where You Get Vitamin D

Fortified milk, cod liver oil, egg yolks and fatty fish such as salmon, herring, kipper and mackerel, tuna fish and sardines, margarine, pudding prepared with vitamin D fortified milk, ready-to-eat cereals fortified with vitamin D, liver, beef and Cheddar and Swiss cheeses.

Winterize Your Bones

It turns out that the health of your bones can take a seasonal dip as well as your mood. During fall and winter, vitamin D levels in blood fall short of vitamin D significantly. This is not good, because one-third of us already have vitamin D levels that fall too low, which can compromise our body’s ability to replenish bones. Your skin uses the energy from sunlight to manufacture vitamin D.

Shorter days mean you get fewer hours of sunlight, while colder temperatures drive you inside. And when you are outside, the sunlight is weaker, while sunscreen in your moisturizer further cuts vitamin D production.

Finally, although milk has vitamin D, you would need four glasses a day to get enough. In addition, vitamin D is not present in other calcium sources such as cheese and yogurt. The solution: A vitamin D supplement. Look for one with 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin D.

Sun exposure is perhaps the most important source of vitamin D.

Warning: Vitamin D should not be taken by individuals suffering from elevated serum calcium levels or hyperparathyroidism without consulting a physician.

Quick Quiz

Calcium helps build strong bones, but it doesn’t do the job alone. Which of the following nutrients enhances calcium’s efforts?

  1. Selenium
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Vitamin K
  4. Potassium

The answer is Vitamin D. Produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight, or taken from foods or supplements, Vitamin D is converted into its active form by the liver and kidneys. Unlike any other vitamin, it acts as a hormone in the body. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, governing how cells behave. Among other tasks, Vitamin D tells your intestines to maximize their absorption of calcium from foods, boosting the amount of calcium the body absorbs by as much as 70 percent.

Did You Know?

Vitamin D is linked to reduced body fat in post-menopausal women. Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D – toss some in salads and sauces.

Read More: Food Facts