Vitamin D and Your Health: Why you want to pay attention to this vital nutrient

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The headline article in my recent edition of Ellen’s Healthy Bites, an email newsletter I send out once per month that is full of the most relevant health/nutrition topic of the day, was “Vitamin D: A Public Service Announcement”. I felt so strongly that it was imperative to educate my readership about the important issue of Vitamin D deficiency, that it should be a Public Service Announcement (PSA).

The PSA is simple. It reads:

***Schedule an appointment with your doctor. Ask to get your Vitamin D levels tested. Do the same for your children, your elderly parents, and anyone else you care about. ***

Why is Vitamin D Deficiency such a big deal?

In just the week since I sent out my article which included a wide number of studies on Vitamin D, another study (or rather “meta-analysis”, which is a study of all the studies done on a particular topic) has shown the health benefits of Vitamin D in the areas of cardiovascular health and diabetes. This recent study was done by researchers at Britain’s University of Warwick, and involved over 99,000 participants.

Here’s what they found:

Compared to participants with the lowest blood levels of Vitamin D, people with the highest blood levels were 33 percent less likely to have CVD (heart disease), 55 percent less likely to have type 2 diabetes, and 51 percent less likely to have metabolic syndrome.

What other studies have been done, what has been found, and who is publishing the data?

Keep reading to find out…

Scientific journals such as American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Neurology, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinical Endocrinology, and Journal of the American Geriatrics Society have all published articles indicating concerns about Vitamin D deficiency in a broad range of different populations.

Vitamin D has many roles in the body. It works with calcium and many other nutrients in a synergistic fashion to strengthen bones, it enhances the immune system, reduces inflammation, improves mood, reduces blood pressure, combats cancer (specifically prostate, breast and colon), plays a role in cardiovascular health, and may reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases, infections, and diabetes.

The role Vitamin D plays in reducing inflammation is particularly interesting to note, given that most of the chronic diseases of our time are linked to an underlying inflammatory process in the body.

Below are summaries of some of the recent studies done on Vitamin D deficiency:*

  • Vitamin D deficiency found to be associated with risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Myalgia (muscle pain) in patients taking statins (a type of cholesterol-reducing medication) reduced in 92% of cases by supplementation with Vitamin D.
  • In women, moderate to severe back pain may be associated with Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Low Vitamin D status (i.e deficiency) adversely affects bone health parameters in adolescents.
  • To ensure that Vitamin D requirement is met by the vast majority (>97.5%) of adults 54 years or older during the winter months, Vitamin D supplementation is required.
  • Children with the lowest Vitamin D levels are 11 times more likely to develop respiratory infections. Appropriate supplementation eliminated re-appearance of infections in this population.
  • Fibromylagia symptoms showed improvement with Vitamin D supplementation.
  • Lower Vitamin D levels significantly associated with higher Lupus disease activity and damage scores.
  • Vitamin D supplementation may improve insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is virtually universal (92%) among patients with chronic liver disease.
  • Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with increased risks for all-cause dementia, Alzheimer disease and stroke.
  • Adolescent and adult women of childbearing age have a high prevalence of Vitamin D insufficiency. One study found Vitamin D deficiency in 69% of pregnant and 78% of nonpregnant women. Current prenatal vitamins help to raise Vitamin D levels, but higher doses and longer durations may be required.
  • In hospitals, improving Vitamin D status (levels) may improve a patient’s functional ability, therefore decreasing falls and preventing fractures, decreasing length of stay in the hospital and decreasing cost of health care.

*If you’d like to see references to the specific studies/journals, check out www.vitasearch.com, which is a great resource for the latest studies in nutrition and integrative medicine. Just type in “Vitamin D deficiency” and you’ll pull up an impressive array of articles.

I hope you’ll heed the advice to get your Vitamin D levels tested, and then start taking this essential nutrient if your levels are low. There are many brands of affordable and effective Vitamin D3 supplements on the market to choose from. If you want to try to increase Vitamin D in your diet, focus on wild sockeye salmon, pastured/free-range eggs and cod liver oil.

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