Recent Studies on Vitamin D

Vitamin D may help reduce risk of developing some cancers

Researchers Gorham et al, have discovered that different types of malignant tumours contain vitamin D receptors, resulting in the theory that a vitamin D deficiency may play a part of some cancers. In the "Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" in 2005, the study titled 'Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer' researchers discovered a link between colorectal cancer risk and vitamin D deficiency, either resulting from inadequate exposure to the sun or a low dietary intake. Garland concluded that daily intake of 1,000 IU of vitamin D reduced this risk by 50%.

Vitamin D deficiency also appears to affect breast cancer risk. A study conducted by a Harvard School of Public Health team followed more than 88,000 women for 16 years and discovered that high intake levels of vitamin D decreased breast cancer risk in premenopausal women. Results appear in the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute" in 2002. In a study titled 'Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis'published in 2007 in the "Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology," researchers Gorham et al concluded that 2,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily and moderate exposure to sun cut breast cancer risk by 50%.

Vitamin D deficiency is a major unrecognised problem

Holick MF, Journal Cellular Biochemistry, 2003 Feb 1;88(2):296-307; Vitamin D: A millenium perspective.

Vitamin D is one of the oldest hormones that have been made in the earliest life forms for over 750 million years. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and most plants and animals that are exposed to sunlight have the capacity to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy skeleton from birth until death. The major function of vitamin D is to maintain calcium homeostasis. It accomplishes this by increasing the efficiency of the intestine to absorb dietary calcium. When there is inadequate calcium in the diet to satisfy the body's calcium requirement, vitamin D communicates to the osteoblasts that signal osteoclast precursors to mature and dissolve the calcium stored in the bone.

Vitamin D deficiency is a major unrecognised health problem. Not only does it cause rickets in children, osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults, but may have long lasting effects. Chronic vitamin D deficiency may have serious adverse consequences, including increased risk of hypertension, multiple sclerosis, cancers of the colon, prostate, breast.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) States:

Nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health have created an online version of a food pyramid with a notation recommending a "daily multivitamin plus extra vitamin D (for most people)."

Recognizing the special nutritional needs of senior citizens, researchers at Tufts University designed a food guide pyramid for the elderly, which features a flag at the top as a reminder that supplements of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12 may be needed for optimal health. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) has a policy statement emphasizing the importance of good food choices but also recognizing that supplements can help some people meet their nutritional needs.

Supplement use should be seen as one component of the search for a healthier lifestyle, including improvements in overall food habits and engaging in physical exercise.

A generous intake of calcium plus vitamin D demonstrably helps build optimum bone mass during childhood and adolescence and also slows the rate of bone loss that naturally occurs with ageing.

Nutritional supplements are helpful in addressing a woman's increased nutrient needs during pregnancy. Prenatal multivitamins with minerals are commonly prescribed to ensure that both the baby's and the mother's needs are met. In addition to meeting normal nutritional needs during pregnancy, a multivitamin can also play a critical role in protecting against some birth defects. An abundance of data shows that women who get 400 mcg of supplemental folic acid per day for one to three months prior to conception and one to three months after conception can substantially lower the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. While adequate nutrient intake is critical for all age groups, it may have particular significance for the elderly. Calcium and vitamin D supplements, as previously noted, can have a powerful impact on bone health, and the Surgeon General says it is never too late to benefit from improved intakes of these nutrients. Vitamin D may also reduce the incidence of falls in older people. Vitamin and mineral supplements have been shown in some studies to improve immune function in the elderly.

Low zinc intakes are associated with an increased risk of infections, including pneumonia. Supplemental intakes of vitamin E have had a positive effect in decreasing upper respiratory infections in some studies. For these reasons, it makes sense to encourage the elderly to use multivitamin and mineral supplements.

The bottom line is that a healthy lifestyle must include a focus on dietary improvement. Generous intakes of the essential nutrients will support the normal functioning of the body and enhance health in a myriad of ways. The rational use of nutritional supplements, combined with a healthy diet, will contribute substantially to health promotion and disease prevention.