Vitamin D: The Disease Preventer

Vitamin D is a hormone our bodies produce and a nutrient we receive from the foods we eat. 

Vitamin D is known as “the sunshine vitamin,” however, there are some individuals who do not make enough Vitamin D from the sun: those who have darker skin tones, who are overweight, who are older in age, or who protect themselves from the sun (with clothes and usage of sunscreen). Where we live and the time of year also affect our ability to produce Vitamin D.

Vitamin D plays a bigger role in preventing and fighting disease than researchers once believed. It is estimated that 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiencies. 

According to Harvard Health, being deficient in Vitamin D increases the risk of developing chronic disease such as osteoporosis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and infectious diseases, including the flu. 

There is debate over how much Vitamin D an individual needs per day (varying from 600 IUs to 4,000 IUs per day).

For preventative measures, the authors recommend that an individual needs more Vitamin D than governmental guidelines recommend.

The best way to receive Vitamin D is through supplements. The two types of Vitamin D used in supplements are Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol, also known as pre-Vitamin D) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is “chemically indistinguishable from the Vitamin D produced in the body.”

The body also manufactures vitamin D from cholesterol, which is triggered by sunlight exposure. How is Vitamin D created by sunlight? UVB rays (ultraviolet) tanning rays triggers the skin to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in the retention of calcium and phosphorous, known to reduce cancer cell growth and control infections. Our organs and tissues are receptors for vitamin D, however, it is important to note that correctly applied sunscreen reduces the ability for vitamin D to be absorbed (up to 90%). 

Here are some ways Vitamin D impacts the body: 

Bone Health

According to the authors, low Vitamin D increases the risk of bone fractures in older adults. Studies have shown that taking 700-1000 IUs per day, reduces the risk of falls by 19% through increasing muscle strength in older adults. 

Heart Disease

Men are twice as likely to have a heart attack if they have a vitamin D deficiency. Higher risk of heart failure, stroke and overall cardiac death is correlated with low Vitamin D rates. 

Cancer

A correlation has been discovered between higher rates of colon cancer diagnoses at higher latitudes (such as the northern states in the US). Studies show that UVB rays are weaker at higher latitudes, causing low Vitamin D levels, deficiencies and a higher risk of developing chronic disease and cancers. 

Interested in learning more? Read the full article <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard my response.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/”>here. 

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