The amazing health benefits of Vitamin D should not be ignored and neither should the risks associated with Vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes referred to as the 'sunshine vitamin' due to the bodies ability to convert UVB rays from the sun in to Vitamin D. Due to this you would think that deficiency of this essential hormone would be almost non existent but unfortunately this is not the case, almost 50% of the worlds population are deficient in Vitamin D.
This wide spread Vitamin D deficiency is a huge public health issue with deficiency being linked to increased risk of death overall, cancer, and increased risk of bone breaks and fractures. These deficiencies can be mainly attributed to lifestyle and reduced exposure to enough sunlight as well as the inability to effectively convert UVB rays in to vitamin D caused by the seasons, wearing sun screen, age, skin pigmentation, and body fat levels. For these reasons it is on the whole wise to consider supplementing with Vitamin D to ensure adequate levels, but more on that later! Lets learn a bit more about Vitamin D.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble hormone responsible for the control of over 1,000 physiological processes and a strong link to the aging process of our cells. So, what does this mean? It means it's pretty important to have it in your body at the correct levels! In fact, Nora Gedgaudas states in her fantastic book Primal Body, Primal Mind (if you are interested in understanding health, read this book!) that Vitamin D may be the single most important organic nutrient for overall health and is one of the most potent antioxidants in the body with a long list of positive health benefits and consequences for those deficient.
As discussed, V itamin D deficiency is wide spread especially in locations with minimal sunshine or in people with physiological factors preventing them converting UVB rays in to Vitamin D, but you can get some Vitamin D through certain foods, including:
- Fish oils
- Whole raw milk
- Some mushrooms
It is worth noting however you would need to eat A LOT of these foods to get adequate levels of Vitamin D for improved health.
The Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several health consequences such as reduced absorption of calcium resulting in decreased bone mineral density and increased risk of osteoporosis! A study of elderly people supplementing with Vitamin D showed a 26% decreased risk of fracturing bones during a fall and this increased to almost 40% when combined with supplemental calcium. Other consequences of Vitamin D deficiency include muscle weakness, depression, generally low feelings of wellbeing, and fatigue.
The Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency can wreak havok in your body and the benefits of having sufficient levels of this essential hormone go a lot further than genral wellbeing, there is now overhwhelming scientific research supporting Vitamin D and its supplementation as a key marker for improved health with huge benefits including:
Vitamin D Reduces Ageing
Our biological aging is something which is measured in telomere length (imagine a candle wick or a shoe lace), when we are born we start with a full telomere and throughout our lives our ageing correlates with a decrease in telomere length. Heres the thing, the rate at which our telomeres shorten is controlled by several environmental factors as well as our lifestyle choices. Basically, the more unhealthy you are the more rapidly your telomeres will diminish, leading to an acceleration in all forms of cell ageing. Ok, so you understand that telomere length is the biomarker for aging?
Now get this, those who supplement with Vitamin D consistently have increased telomere length which equates to five years of aging meaning that supplementing with Vitamin D has a decelerating effect on the shortening of telomeres. This astounding discovery is thought to be caused by the massive protective and antioxidant role which Vitamin D plays in our bodies.
Vitamin D Reduces Cancer Risk
Another powerful and persuasive reason to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D is the strong and well researched link between the hormone and cancer prevention. A study of several thousand women that adequate Vitamin D levels lowered the risk of all forms of cancer in Women by between 50 and 70% and for men the figure is closer to 60%. The studies on the link between Vitamin D and cancer prevention spread far and wide and to overlook Vitamin D as a protective horomone to this destructive disease would be foolish in the face of such conclusive research!
These two extremely powerful benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Vitamin D and what it offers to human health, other benefits include:
- Immune system booster
- Brain health
- Critical for calcium absorption
- Massive anti inflammatory
The Need For Supplementation
If you live in an idyllic year round sunny climate and are young and healthy it is possible you can get all of your required Vitamin D from 15-30 minutes of sun exposure a day (although there are some drawbacks to this) but the chance that this is you is low, and with food sources of Vitamin D being sparse the only option is to supplement to make sure we have the right levels of Vitamin D for optimal health. Normal health care association recommendations for Vitamin D supplementation are lagging behind the doses required for optimal health (which are completely safe) with higher doses associated with many of the amazing benefits listed above.
For prevention of deficiency it is recommended to supplement with 800-2000iu a day, but for those looking to open themselves up to some of the larger and more amazing benefits of Vitamin D supplementation the safe tolerable limit for adults is thought to be around 4000iu per day with toxicity not occuring until around the 10000iu mark. I personally vary my intake based on a quarterly blood serum test, the seasons, and how I am feeling in general. In the winter it is not unusual for me to be supplementing with 4000iu per day and closer to 2000iu in the summer months when I am getting some full sun exposure. Experiment and see what works for you, but if in doubt get a blood test!
Vitamin D is no joke, it is absolutely essential for optimal functioning of our bodies and serves as one of the most protective substances we can take to prevent cancers and cell ageing. I hope this article will persuade you to start including Vitamin D in your diet. Simply put, Vitamin D supplementation is one of the single most beneficial things you can do for overall health and well being. This is why it is included on our list of three supplements which you should take for improved health!