For optimal health, one has to maintain a vitamin D level of 40-60 ng/ml year-round. Growing evidence suggests that 40 ng/ml seems to be the magic number at which multiple health benefits are obtained.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a wide range of illnesses, such as stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, infectious diseases, Alzheimer`s disease, and Chron`s disease as well as cancers of the colon, prostate, esophagus, breast, ovaries, and the lymphatic system.
Vitamin D Lowers Overall Mortality Risk
As reported by the Institute of Medicine, there is a close relationship between vitamin D and overall mortality risk. A 54-month study including over 422,800 adults has shown that those who were most deficient in vitamin D were at 88% increased mortality risk.
By following sun exposure guidelines and not getting burned you can optimize these benefits and maximize the risk of skin damage which could eventually lead to skin cancer. On the other hand, overexposure to sun is the real problem regarding the risk for skin cancer.
Higher Vitamin D = Lower Cancer Risk
Earlier research has shown that a vitamin D level of 50 ng/ml was linked with a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer. Patients suffering from breast cancer with vitamin D level of 30 ng/ml also had higher survival rate than those with low levels.
Recently, a team of researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) to 40ng/ml can lower the risk of cancer by staggering 67 percent!
According to study co-author Cedric Garland, Dr.P.H.,
“We have quantitated the ability of adequate amounts of vitamin D to prevent all types of invasive cancer combined, which had been terra incognita until publication of this paper…
These findings support an inverse association between 25(OH)D and risk of cancer, and highlight the importance for cancer prevention of achieving a vitamin D blood serum concentration above 20 ng/ml, the concentration recommended by the IOM for bone health.”
Improving Vitamin D Status is a Key Cancer Prevention Tool
By using data from two earlier studies-one randomized trial and one cohort study, the first of which showed a 77 percent lower cancer risk for those with vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml compared to a baseline of 28 nhg/ml- they managed to get a larger sample size.
This helped them obtain more accurate idea of the vitamin D level needed for cancer prevention. This study involved all invasive cancers, expect for skin cancer.
According to Science Daily,
“In the Lappe trial cohort, the median blood serum level of 25(OH)D was 30 nanograms per milliliter. In the GrassrootsHealth prospective cohort, it was higher: 48 ng/ml.
The researchers found that the age-adjusted cancer incidence was 1,020 cases per 100,000 person-years in the Lappe cohort and 722 per 100,000 person-years in the GrassrootsHealth cohort.
Cancer incidence declined with increased 25(OH)D. Women with 25(OH)D concentrations of 40 ng/ml or greater had a 67 percent lower risk of cancer than women with levels of 20 ng/ml or less...
Primary prevention of cancer, rather than expanding early detection or improving treatment, will be essential to reversing the current upward trend of cancer incidence worldwide,” the researchers wrote. “This analysis suggests that improving vitamin D status is a key prevention tool.“
How Does Vitamin D Help Protect Against Cancer?
Vitamin D affects every cell in the body and is critical to reduce your cancer risk. The organs can convert it in the bloodstream into colcitriol, an activated form of vitamin D. The organs can utilize it to repair damage. Most importantly, this nutrient also causes apoptosis of cancer cells.
According to Garland, vitamin D impacts the structure of epithelial cells in all breast cancer forms. These cells are attached to each other by a substance called E-cadherin, which consists of vitamin D and calcium. Lack of vitamin D damages this structure and the cells go forth and multiply.
Uncontrolled cell proliferation may eventually cause cancer. If you are already diagnosed with breast cancer, adding vitamin D to your diet might inhibit cancer cells by replenishing E-cadherin.
Low Vitamin D Predicts Aggressive Prostate Cancer
A team of researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine recently found that men with aggressive prostate cancer have vitamin D levels below 23 ng/ml. This study suggests that vitamin D can serve as biomarker to determine the aggressiveness of the cancer.
As noted in a University press release,
“The relationship between vitamin D and prostate cancer may explain some disparities seen in prostate cancer, especially among African American men. Prior research…showed African American men who live in low sunlight locations are up to 1½ times more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than Caucasian men.
But because vitamin D is a biomarker for bone health and aggressiveness of other diseases, all men should check their levels, [lead investigator Dr. Adam] Murphy said. “All men should be replenishing their vitamin D to normal levels,” Murphy said. “It’s smart preventive health care.”
Vitamin D Dramatically Improves Heart Function
Another study discovered that vitamin D has pretty much amazing ability to boost heart function in patients with chronic heart failure. A 5-year old trial involving 160 subjects undergoing treatment for chronic heart failure has shown that the vitamin D group exhibited notable improvement in heart function compared to the placebo group. According to The Independent:
“Dr Klaus Witte, who led the…research project, told The Independent the improvements seen in patients taking the vitamin were “nothing short of amazing,” and called his team’s findings a “significant breakthrough”…
Researchers made ultrasound scans of participants’ hearts and measured the how much blood was being pumped with each heartbeat, to get a figure called ejection fraction. The ejection fraction of a healthy person is usually around 60 to 70 per cent, but it dropped to an average of 26 per cent among the patients enrolled in the study.
For those who took vitamin D3, the ejection fraction was improved from 26 to 34 per cent, while the rest experienced not change. For some patients, this discovery means regularly taking vitamin D3 could lessen the need for them to be fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which can correct dangerous heart rhythms.”
Sun Avoidance Equals Smoking in Terms of Mortality Risk
Sun avoidance increases your mortality risk very similarly to that of smoking. This is the finding of a recent Swedish study in which the researchers discovered that although women with regular sun exposure were at increased risk of melanoma compared to sun avoiders, they were at lower risk of mortality.
According to the researchers, “Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking. Compared to the highest sun exposure group, life expectancy of avoiders of sun exposure was reduced by 0.6–2.1 years.” The bottom line is that we are basically building the storm for negative health outcomes because of deficiency in vitamin D.