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The sunshine vitamin can impart an all-over healthy glow.
September 18, 2006 03:42 PM
When papers like the Los Angeles Times write articles with titles like “wonder Pill-really” about a seemingly ho-hum nutrient like vitamin D, attention must be paid. The attention is now forthcoming from researchers who are exploring this humble vitamin’s connection to an astonishingly wide spectrum of health issues. And these scientist are concerned that, dispite fortification of such common foods as milk, many people aren’t getting the D they need for optimal well-being.
Vitamin D generally recognized as calcium’s indispensable little helper, which makes it vital to maintaining bone health. But we now know that D’s benefits extend far beyond calcium control; it plays crucial roles in immunity, blood cell formation and hormone regulation.
Scientists believe that vitamin D helps cells differentiate, or mature into specialized roles each is meant to play. That’s important in cancer defense because malignant cells tend to be undifferentiated, primitive types given to reproducing uncontrollably. Cells, both malignant and healthy, have vitamin D receptors on their surface; when d binds to cancer cells, they stop growing.
This may help explain why men with low levels of vitamin D are particularly prone to dying of cancer and why higher rates of prostate cancer occur in climates where exposure to the sun-which powers D creation within the skin—is low. On a more positive note, investigators at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center of San Diego report that taking 1,000IU of vitamin D daily appears to drop the risk of developing breast, colon and ovarian cancer by up to 50% (American Assn for Cancer Research, Ninth Meeting). Other studies suggest that even after cancer develops, D may help hinder disease progression and enhance survival.
Vitamin D does a body good in a number of other ways. For example, the sunshine vitamin lights up both the immune system and production of insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. In one study women who took the amount of vitamin D generally found in multivitamins (400 IU) and had a 31% reduced fisk of dying from heart disease; in another, D from multivitamins dropped the risk of multiple sclerosis development by 40%. Supplements have also helped stroke victims avoid the muscular wasting that leaks to falls and fractures (Cerebrovascular Disease 7/05). Conversely, low D levels have been linked to poor lung function, unexplained muscle pain and increased obesity risk.
Currently, the federal government recommends daily vitamin D intakes of 200IU for people under age 51, 400IU for those 51 – 70 and 600 IU for ages 71 and up. But many prominent scientists believe those levels are two low, especially since so many folks avoid sun exposure to cut skin cancer risk. “I’m 99% sure that vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common,” Harvard nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willett told the LA Times (06/12/06). Deficiencies are more likely among dark-colored individuals (whose skins do not make D effectively), vegans (who avoid dairy) and people with disorders that reduce intestinal absorption, such as Crohn’s disease. Higher dosages should always be taken under practitioner’s watchful eye, especially if a medical condition already exists.
No matter what health hazard you’re trying to illuminate, don’t hesitate to bask in the sunshine vitamin’s warm radiance. –Lisa James.
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November 18, 2005 01:30 PM
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