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Vitamin D: The Wonder Vitamin

~ by Jo Jordan

With all that's been written recently about vitamin D, it's not a stretch to call it the wonder vitamin . While numerous health problems are strongly connected to vitamin D deficiency, many of these same illnesses are easy to alleviate and, possibly, avoid altogether by taking daily vitamin supplementation.

In fact, the wave of studies and favorable findings about the benefits of vitamin D led one expert to comment that most, if not all, researchers who study vitamin D take significant amounts of the vitamin daily!

A well-known doctor says vitamin D is introducing “a golden age in medicine”:

~ It will affect every branch of medicine and public health favorably.~
Dr. Cedric Garland, professor of preventive medicine at the University of California , San Diego1


Why Vitamin D Is Crucial to Overall Health

Vitamin D plays a myriad of roles in our body. It regulates c alcium and is, therefore, a major contributor to bone health . Vitamin d plays a vital role in the body's i mmune system, especially with regard to cancer. And though its function in the b rain is not clearly understood at this time, evidence suggests low vitamin D levels are strongly tied to Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to:

Researchers at Montreal’s McGill University report that every cell in the human body has receptors for vitamin D; they speculate that hundreds of different genes may be regulated by it.2 The implications of this are far reaching because vitamin D is thought do everything from counter the effects of Crohn’s Disease3, to preventing various types of cancer.4

How Does Vitamin D Work In the Body?

Normally, our bodies go through several steps to synthesize vitamin D, an endocrine hormone. Ultraviolet rays from the sun act upon a compound, sterol, present in skin. An unsaturated solid alcohol of the steroid group present in the fatty tissues of plants and animals, sterol is converted into vitamin D, and then metabolized into a hormone in the liver and kidneys. Vitamin D target tissues (where the vitamin produces its effects) exist throughout the body.

The Birth of Vitamin D Deficiency

For the past few decades, fear of cancer and the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays keep many people out of the sun, which has led to widespread vitamin D-deficiency. People who live in northern climates, the elderly, and the housebound are also especially vulnerable to deficiency, as are those who use sun block.

In addition, vitamin D is found in very few foods naturally. Some – such as milk and orange juice – are fortified with vitamin D, but other than fatty fish, few foods provide us with the significant amounts of vitamin D we require for good health.

36 Organs Respond to Vitamin D

As mentioned, Vitamin D target tissues exist throughout the body. Dr. Anthony Norman – professor of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at the University of California, Riverside – lists thirty-six organ tissues in the human body whose cells respond biologically to vitamin D.5

Norman states that all thirty-six – including bone marrow, breast, colon, intestine, kidney, lung, prostate, retina, skin, stomach, and the uterus – can be seriously affected by vitamin D deficiency. So imagine the havoc wreaked on your body when it doesn't get sufficient amounts of vitamin D?

Digestion, Digestive Disorders, and Vitamin D

The presence and distribution of extensive vitamin D target tissues in the digestive system speaks to the vital role this vitamin plays in our digestive processes. Cells line the inside walls of the intestine and colon. Research suggests that the effects of vitamin D on digestive processes are extensive, involving all levels of the digestive system.

People with serious digestive illnesses are often vitamin D deficient. According to study results presented at the American College of Gastroenterology's 2008 scientific meeting, vitamin D deficiency is common in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and chronic liver disease (cirrhosis)6, which can also lead other diseases such as osteoporosis.

Cancer Prevention and Vitamin D

Cells cover the surfaces of our internal organs and line the inside walls of the intestine and colon. While these tissues make up a small percentage of our body weight, they are the source of a large percent of carcinomas (cancer).

Carcinomas develop most frequently in the colon, stomach, breast, cervix, lungs, pancreas, prostate, skin, and uterus. Studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation can greatly reduce the overall incidence of cancer:

Women who took calcium and vitamin D supplements for four years had a sixty percent lower incidence of cancer.7 And researchers for the British Medical Journal report that people with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by almost a forty percent compared to those with low vitamin D levels.8

Obesity and Vitamin D Deficiency

Research cited on Dr. Elmer M. Cranton MD's web site suggests vitamin D deficiency as a common cause of obesity. Cranton points out that vitamin D is known to increase calcium absorption, and that higher calcium intake is consistently associated with lower body weight. When taken together, vitamin D and calcium burn fat and suppress spontaneous food intake.

Obesity is in turn linked to other vitamin D deficiency diseases: cancer, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease.

Vitamin D Alleviates Age-related Conditions

Our bodies become less efficient as we age, leaving us vulnerable to a host of health problems. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a range of age-related health conditions such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and even mortality.

Calcium and Vitamin D Work Together

~ Taking a multi-vitamin simplifies the process of ensuring adequate daily intake of these two vital health constituents. ~

Vitamin D assists with the absorption of calcium from the intestines, regulating blood levels of both calcium and phosphorus . Even when you're getting a lot of calcium in your diet, if your body thinks there isn't enough in the blood, it will leach it from your bones, causing bone loss over time.

The interference of certain medications (more likely to be taken by the elderly) can also play a role in vitamin and mineral absorption. Absorbing calcium can be problematic for the elderly, which can lead to fragile bones. Adequate calcium absorption plays a vital role in preventing fractures – especially for those with, or at risk of developing, osteoporosis.

The development of osteoporosis is also cross-linked to other conditions that are related to vitamin D deficiency and aging such as digestive problems (see above).

But vitamin D can decrease deficiency problems, ward off disease, improve bone health by fostering proper absorption of calcium, and even lengthen one's life.

Vitamin D and a Longer Lifespan?

In a 2007 study, higher concentrations of vitamin D were associated with longer telomeres9 (DNA regions at chromosome ends that protect them from deterioration). Telomere deterioration (shortening) is linked with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, smoking, and lupus as well as chronic inflammation and coronary heart disease.

This research highlights the potential benefits of vitamin D on aging, age-related diseases, and – in turn – overall lifespan.

Vitamin D Deficiency Is Linked to Other Conditions

Since calcium metabolism influences blood pressure, some research points to the potential for vitamin D reducing the risk of high blood pressure, developing hypertension and cardiovascular complications.10

Dr. John Cannell, a spokesperson for the benefits of vitamin D, connects deficiency with both influenza11 and autism.12 His 2007 study suggesting a connection between autism and vitamin D deficiency cites an increase in autism over the last twenty years, one that corresponds with medical warnings to avoid the sun. Cannel notes that children with the vitamin D deficiency have autistic markers that disappear with vitamin D therapy.

Are You at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?

Some people are at higher risk than others for vitamin D deficiency:

  • Dark-skinned individuals

  • Infants and the elderly due to lack of exposure and, with the elderly, a decreased ability to synthesize, absorb, and metabolize Vitamin D

  • Obese or very overweight people

  • People with certain medical conditions: serious diseases of the nervous or digestive systems such as inflammatory bowel disease (which includes celiac and Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis), fat malabsorption syndromes, kidney failure, and genetic disorders

  • People who aren’t exposed to the sun due to clothing, sunscreen, or because they live in nursing homes or other institutions

  • People who live in northern latitudes

  • Medication interference: some drugs interfere with either the ability to absorb or metabolize vitamin D (ask your healthcare provider)

  • Gastrointestinal surgeries can result in an inability to adequately absorb vitamin D from diet and/or supplements. Gallbladder removal may also increase the risk for vitamin D deficiency due to and reduced ability to break down fats.

Lab Test for Vitamin D Levels

If you think you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, check with your health care provider regarding a simple blood test to check your vitamin D level.

Where do I Get Vitamin D?

Food Sources:

There are three primary sources of vitamin D: sunlight, food, and supplementation. Food sources include:

  • Cod liver oil, fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna), shrimp, oysters, and liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified cereals, juice, milk, and soymilk
  • Mushrooms

Remember, vitamin D isn’t plentiful in foods. Therefore, obtaining this vital vitamin as part of a multi-vitamin regimen makes perfect sense.

Supplementation:

Puristat's multi-vitamin - Advanced Supplementation contains optimal levels of vitamin D (1050 IU). We deliver this vitamin in it's most bio-available form, as cholecalciferol (also known as vitamin D3). This is the most natural form of vitamin D supplementation. Be wary of supplements that provide vitamin D in a form other than D3. Inferior supplements are not bio-available and have reduced effectiveness.

In Closing

Vitamin D truly appears to be the wonder drug for our time. A preventative for a host of ailments that are plaguing both the middle-aged and elderly alike, it just makes good digestive and overall-health sense to supplement your diet with a multi-vitamin that includes an optimal amount of vitamin D.


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Notes:
1. Martin Mittelstaedt, “The vitamin D miracle: Is it for real?,” Saturday's Globe and Mail, Mar. 08, 2008 9:32AM EST, pp. F6, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/article672998.ece (accessed February 19, 2011).
2. Charlie Fidelman, “Is Vitamin D a cure-all?,” The Gazette, Dec. 20, 2010, http://www.edmontonjournal.com/story_print.html?id=4002480&sponsor= (accessed February 19, 2011).
3. Science Daily, “Vitamin D Supplements Could Fight Crohn's Disease,” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127104904.htm (accessed February 19, 2011).
4. Martin Mittelstaedt, “Scientists taking vitamin D in droves,” Friday's Globe and Mail, Thursday, Jul. 22, 2010 11:27PM EDT, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/scientists-taking-vitamin-d-in-droves/article1649132/ (accessed February 19, 2011).
5. e! Science News, “Vitamin D a key player in overall health of several body organs, says UC Riverside biochemist,” http://esciencenews.com/articles/2008/10/09/vitamin.d.a.key.player.overall.health.several.body.organs.says.uc.riverside.biochemist (accessed February 19, 2011).
6. American College of Gastroenterology, press release dated Monday, October 6, 2008, 8am EDT, http://www.acg.gi.org/media/releases/2008am/ACG08VitaminDDeficiency.pdf (accessed February 19, 2011).
7. National Cancer Institute, “Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention: Strengths and Limits of the Evidence,” http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/vitamin-D (accessed February 19, 2011).
8. Megan Brooks, “High vitamin D levels, lower colon cancer risk?,” Reuters: New York, Jan. 27, 2010, 1:24PM EST, http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/27/us-vitamin-d-idUSTRE60Q56820100127(accessed February 19, 2011).
9. Qun Xu, et al, “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Mar. 11, 2009 (published online), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2714373/ (accessed February 19, 2011).
10. Wang L, et al, “Dietary intake of dairy products, calcium, and vitamin D and the risk of hypertension in middle-aged and older women,” PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2008 Apr;51(4):1073-9. Epub 2008 Feb 7, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18259007 (accessed February 19, 2011).
11. William B. Grant and Cedric F. Garland, “The role of vitamin D3 in preventing infections,” Oxford Journals, Age and Ageing (2008) 37(1): 121-122 doi:10.1093/ageing/afm182, http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/37/1/121.2.fullHis 2007 (accessed February 19, 2011).
12. Cannell JJ, “Autism and vitamin D,” PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2008;70(4):750-9. Epub 2007 Oct 24, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17920208 (accessed February 19, 2011).


 
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