Vitamin D has been called The Holy Grail of vitamins because this remarkable nutrient benefits virtually every system in your body. And just when you thought the news couldn’t get any better, a flurry of new research is showing that this nutrient still possesses new, surprising benefits.
It’s important news because studies show that nearly half of all Americans still don’t get enough vitamin D.
Here’s the story…
According to researchers at the University of South Australia, when you get enough vitamin D, you make yourself less vulnerable to a whole host of health trouble, lowering your risk of Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and autoimmune diseases.
The reason: All of those conditions are linked to chronic inflammation, when your immune system starts misbehaving and damaging the body’s own organs instead of warding off infection. And when you run low on vitamin D, their research shows, it can lead to chronic inflammation.1
More vitamin D means less c-reactive protein
In their investigation of the health of nearly 300,000 people whose health data is stored in the UK Biobank, a database of the health records of people in the United Kingdom, the Australians discovered that when your vitamin D level is low, you have a bigger risk of having more C-reactive protein circulating in your blood. This protein is a marker of inflammation in the body.
“High levels of C-reactive protein are generated by the liver in response to inflammation, so when your body is experiencing chronic inflammation, it also shows higher levels of C-reactive protein,” warns researcher Ang Zhou, PhD.
Proper vitamin D supplementation can lower the levels of C-reactive prote in the body. And vitamin D’s role in reducing your chances of an autoimmune condition is particularly important in today’s world.
Fending off autoimmune disaster
It’s estimated that at least 50 million Americans suffer from one or more of these diseases which include psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica (which causes muscle pain and stiffness) and autoimmune thyroid disease. These conditions, which mostly strike women, are among the ten leading causes of death today among American women.2
A five-year study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving more than 25,000 people in their 50s and older found that taking vitamin D lowered the chances for an autoimmune disease by 22 percent.3 (The men in the study were all over age 50, the women were over age 55.)
The research also showed that taking fish oil could lower the risk by 11 percent. But for those taking vitamin D, there was no added benefit in this research by adding fish oil—vitamin D was better.
“Now, when my patients, colleagues, or friends ask me which vitamins or supplements I’d recommend they take to reduce risk of autoimmune disease, I have new evidence-based recommendations for women age 55 years and older and men 50 years and older,” says researcher Karen Costenbader, M.D., MPH. “I suggest vitamin D 2000 IU a day and marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), 1000 mg a day.” (Those were the doses used in the study.)
Fair to say that if vitamin D wasn’t a natural substance, it would be considered a wonder drug.
Stay strong with vitamin D
Research also shows that vitamin D:
- Helps you stay physically stronger as you age. Research focused on men over age 50 shows vitamin D can reduce by 78 percent the chances of losing muscle tissue with the passing years.4
- Lowers your risk of premature death. A 14-year study of people aged 37 to 73 shows that getting enough vitamin D can drop the risk of premature death by 25 percent.5
- Reduces your risk of dying from cancer. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) just published the results of three meta-analyses of vitamin D-focused clinical studies and found something remarkable: vitamin D supplementation reduced the number of cancer deaths by 13 percent.6
- Lowers risk of dementia 40 percent. Scientists from the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Canada and the University of Exeter in the UK examined the medical records of more than 12,000 seniors, searching for a connection between taking vitamin D supplements and dementia outcomes. The results showed that taking vitamin D supplements reduced dementia risk by 40 percent! Previous research shows that vitamin D can help clear amyloid plaques – the key driver of dementia – from the brain. And it can also help lower dementia-related inflammation.7
- Improves the health of your brain and may keep it from shrinking as you age. A study in England found that the people with the lowest amount of vitamin D in their blood run the biggest risk of dementia as they age. The researchers believe that if everyone got enough vitamin D, 17 percent fewer people would get dementia. They also found that having adequate vitamin D can decrease your loss of brain volume.
We could go on and on. Vitamin D is also essential for the health of your heart, lungs, liver, and digestive system.
Getting enough vitamin D
Your body can make vitamin D from the ultraviolet light in sunshine and get some from the food you eat, but there’s a long list of reasons why these sources don’t work well for most of us. For instance, if you live north of Tennessee, most of the sun you can get is too weak for adequate vitamin D production. Plus, as you age, your body is less able to make vitamin D and if you wear sunscreen and don’t get outside much, then you’ll also fall short.
Foods like fatty fish contain some vitamin D and there’s a bit in egg yolks, liver, and cheese. Some foods like milk are fortified with vitamin D, but they don’t contain that much.
If you decide to take vitamin D supplements, experts generally agree that taking D3, the kind your body can make if it gets enough sunshine, is a better bet than D2. As for dosage, Dr. Costenbader recommends 2,000 IU a day, but other experts believe a bit more than that is better for most people.
Remember, close to half of Americans—more than 100 million people– still don’t get enough vitamin D. Globally, experts estimate that a billion people are deficient.
My team and I have been writing on the importance of vitamin D for robust, good health for the last 15 years. We’ve seen the research and met with the patients who are living testimonies to the fact that increasing vitamin D levels can help improve everything from memory loss to cancer.
Most important, the only way to know if you’re deficient in vitamin D is to get your vitamin D blood levels checked every year. By the way, if you live in a cold climate and you’re not supplementing with a significant amount of vitamin D, chances are you’re deficient.
Personally, I think everyone can benefit from a good daily supplement of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, the most absorbable form). That’s why Green Valley Natural Solutions developed one of its leading anti-aging formulas with a healthy dose of Vitamin D3. I’m talking about Genesis, which promotes the health of cellular telomeres that are linked to longevity.
So, what vitamin D blood level should you aim for?
Some leading epidemiologists and endocrinologists suggest 12.5 ng/mL of vitamin D is an acceptable blood level. Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine regards 20 ng/mL or higher as adequate for good bone health, and anything below this is seen as deficient.
The Endocrine Society regards 30 ng/mL to be the lowest acceptable level but recommends maintaining a level between 40 and 60 ng/mL for both adults and children.
If the experts can’t agree, what are we non-scientists supposed to make of it? Most natural health doctors will tell you that the conventional experts’ recommended vitamin D levels outlined above are woefully inadequate. Instead, many point out that maintaining a blood level between 50 ng/mL and 80 ng/mL is a better choice for your health, although some doctors suggest vitamin D blood levels as high as 80ng/mL to 100ng/mL.
When in doubt, I recommend working with a natural or alternative doctor that you trust.
The Green Valley Team