5 ways vitamin D offers whole body protection for optimal health
(NaturalHealth365) Far too many Americans are deficient in vitamin D, an important nutrient that offers “whole body protection.” For example, adequate levels of vitamin D can help to maintain calcium levels and promote the growth and maintenance of bone.
Vitamin D does much more than simply help to maintain a strong skeleton – research supports its ability to protect against a variety of serious diseases. But, here’s a disturbing fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 6 out of every 10 Americans currently suffer from some sort of chronic degenerative disease, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Yet, a shocking 90 percent of Americans are believed to have insufficient vitamin D levels, while 35 percent of American adults have a serious deficiency (concentrations below 20 nanograms per milliliter). Today, we’ll focus on the 5 primary ways vitamin D can protect your health.
Vitamin D protects against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease
Vitamin D is strongly neuroprotective – meaning that it can help fight damaging inflammation in the brain and preserve function. More specifically, studies have shown that vitamin D promotes neurogenesis – the formation of new brain cells – while protecting existing cells.
As if this weren’t enough reason to credit vitamin D with slowing the progression of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, there is evidence that vitamin D reduces deposits of harmful amyloid proteins (linked with Alzheimer’s disease) in the brain.
Vitamin D offers another gift to brain health by helping to maintain brain volume – fighting against the inevitable “shrinkage” that commonly occurs in the aging brain. Unsurprisingly, researchers note that lower levels of vitamin D are linked with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
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And higher vitamin D levels are, of course, linked to better cognitive function. One could even say that vitamin D for better cognitive health is a “no-brainer!”
Vitamin D protects heart health
Here, also, the research is clear: low vitamin D levels raise the risk of heart attack and death due to cardiac causes – while supplementation reduces risk. In fact, in one study, elderly people with vitamin D deficiency were a staggering 12.2 times more likely to experience heart failure!
In a study published in Nutrition Reviews, researchers found that adults who took a vitamin D supplement had a higher likelihood of improved lipid profiles. In other words, participants enjoyed lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) in the blood.
And, not having enough vitamin D is linked to risk factors for heart disease – such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
If all vitamin D accomplished was to lower the odds of heart disease (by reducing risk factors), it would still certainly be worth taking – for that purpose alone. But, there is even evidence that vitamin D can help actively reverse heart disease. In one study, 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day caused an 18 percent drop in harmful arterial stiffness.
Vitamin D boosts immunity
The indisputable fact is: low levels of vitamin D are linked with chronic diseases – such as heart disease and cancer. There is also some evidence that vitamin D can help protect against acute infections, such as colds, flu and respiratory infections.
Intriguingly, research suggests that vitamin D seems to mitigate prolonged and excessive inflammatory responses, making it of value against autoimmune conditions – such as multiple sclerosis, thyroid problems (such as Hashimoto’s disease) rheumatoid arthritis and IBS.
Vitamin D protects against breast cancer
With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer in women – and researchers are striving to discover natural, non-toxic techniques for prevention and treatment.
Vitamin D could play an important role in combating this life-threatening cancer. A promising new study of over 5,000 postmenopausal women published in the journal PLOS One showed that higher levels of vitamin D are linked with a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer.
And, check this out…
In an exciting study published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with optimal vitamin D levels had only one-fifth the risk of breast cancer, when compared with women who were deficient. How’s that for a reduced risk?!
The study suggests that the minimum vitamin D blood level for protective health benefit is 60 nanograms per milliliter – triple the amount advised in 2010 by the National Academy of Medicine! (Maybe it’s time for a revision?)
There’s more: in a study published in JAMA Oncology, breast cancer patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D had the best odds of surviving the disease. And, finally, healthy vitamin D levels are linked with protection against other cancers – including cancers of the prostate and bladder, along with multiple myeloma and leukemia.
Vitamin D fights insulin resistance and wards off type 2 diabetes
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. Because calcium is needed for the secretion of insulin – and vitamin D promotes calcium absorption – this nutrient plays an important role in insulin production.
Researchers wondered: could vitamin D supplementation possibly slow the development of type 2 diabetes in prediabetics – people who are at risk for diabetes but haven’t yet developed the disease?
In a study of prediabetic participants, the team found that vitamin D slowed the rise of fasting blood sugar, increased insulin secretion in the pancreas and improved desirable insulin sensitivity.
The answer to their question appears to be “yes.”
Boost immunity and health by raising your personal supply of the “sunshine vitamin”
A surprising 50 to 90 percent of our vitamin D is created in the skin in response to sunshine – and scientists say that lack of exposure to direct sunlight is the number one reason for shortfalls. People who live in climates with less exposure to direct sunlight, people with dark skin and people who are overweight all are at higher risk of deficiency.
To ramp up your vitamin D production, natural health experts advise getting twenty minutes of direct sunlight three times a week. However, in many cases, supplementation may be needed to maintain optimal levels.
Wondering if you’re low in vitamin D? A simple blood test known as a “25-hydroxy vitamin D test” can help your doctor appraise your levels and make dosage recommendations.
Most natural health experts advise vitamin D amounts in the area of 5,000 to 8,000 IU a day – but individual needs can vary. Keep in mind, vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is considered more effective than the alternate form, vitamin D2. And, yes, there are other co-factors that help individuals to absorb vitamin D such as, zinc and boron.
In terms of food sources, cage-free (organic) eggs, cold-water fatty fish, organic mushrooms, soy and raw dairy products are the best choice.
Obviously, if you need help, talk to an integrative physician that has experience with nutrition to guide you in the right direction. But, there’s no doubt, adequate levels of vitamin D can be a formidable weapon against some of the most serious health issues confronting us today.
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Sources for this article include: