Here are the latest facts on the health benefits of Vitamin D for preventing and removing disease, such as autism, aging, asthma, backaches, bones, cancer, heart problems, diabetes, fertility, migraines, pelvic floor disorder, periodontal disease, peripheral artery disease, rickets, fibromyalgia and other health problems as well as colds and flu.
Before reading any further,
see our medical disclaimer.
Lack of Vitamin D has been directly linked to 22 different forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, depression and heart disease. One of the benefits of vitamin D: One study showed that women who took Vitamin D supplements had as much as 77 percent lower risk of cancer than women who didn't take it. Vitamin D deficiency is also related to the likelihood of spinal problems, such as vertebral fractures, herniated discs, and so forth.
In November, 2007, Scientific American published an article about the benefits of Vitamin D, indicating that Vitamin D response elements (VDREs) are involved in the formation of natural antibiotics within the body. That is why sunshine was used in the past to cure tuberculosis, before other treatments were developed.
Its action as a natural antibiotic and antiviral supplement helps strengthen your immune system to fight off colds, flu and other infections. Researchers now believe that because people get less sunlight, and therefore less Vitamin D, in the wintertime, that is why colds, flu, and other infections happen more frequently in the winter. Flu pretty much disappears in summer.
Says Dr. David Williams, medical researcher:
Regardless of whether it's the flu bug or some other pathogen, there are always some individuals who are exposed but don't come down with the disease...it's because their immune system is strong enough to keep the bug from getting the upper hand.
We now know that even a slight deficiency of Vitamin D can seriously compromise the immune system. This is particularly important if a flu epidemic hits in the winter months and you happen to be dark-skinned or live in the northern states. Something as simple--and inexpensive--as the benefits of Vitamin D may be the key to stopping such an epidemic dead in its tracks. It may be one of the easiest ways you can boost your immune system and stay protected.
From mid-fall through winter, you are at greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency, especially if you live above the 38 degree north latitude, which runs approximately through Baltimore, St. Louis, Denver and San Francisco. In these areas, winter sun exposure is practically useless for producing Vitamin D. Even in places like Southern California, the winter sun does not convey enough Vitamin D for protection from disease.
Getting sick a lot with viral and bacterial infections may indicate vitamin D deficiency. So if you get sick frequently, you might want to have your vitamin D levels tested.
In support of this theory, a study published by John Cannell, M.D., Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, showed these benefits of Vitamin D:
Dr. Cannell had his eyes opened to the benefits of Vitamin D at a California maximum-security hospital where he was working in 2005. Early that year, the hospital had a severe flu epidemic. In Dr. Cannell's ward, however, no one got sick, even though they had been exposed. The difference was that Cannell's patients had been taking 2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily for several months.
The benefits of Vitamin D are so far reaching that researchers are calling it a "super nutrient," one of the most important in fighting off disease. The benefits of Vitamin D may include reducing the risk of Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other health problems mentioned in this article.
Julian Whitaker, M.D., who has a well-known alternative health clinic in Newport Beach, California, is firmly convinced of the benefits of Vitamin D. He says:
If Vitamin D were a drug, conventional physicians would be all over it...Low Vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk of cancer, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity in people of all ages. In older people, deficiencies of this vitamin are also linked with weakness, increased likelihood of developing macular degeneration, and a 2.5 times greater risk of death.
Supplemental Vitamin D reduces risk of cancer of the breast, colon, lungs, and blood in older women by nearly 60 percent. It improves both mood and balance in older people. Vitamin D reduces symptoms in patients with autoimmune disorders, and just one dose significantly enhances immunity in people exposed to tuberculosis. The benefits of Vitamin D include decreasing bone loss in the elderly and increasing bone mineral density in those younger than age 70. Oral supplements relieve pain of osteomalacia, which is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, and when applied topically, it's a good treatment for psoriasis.
What about the benefits of Vitamin D to slow aging? In a study of more than 2,000 female twin pairs, researchers found that those with the highest Vitamin D levels had less inflammation and body stress, factors involved in aging.
A seven-year-old autistic boy showed seasonal variations in his symptoms--he got better in the summer--so Dr. Cannell recommended cessation of vitamin A supplements and taking 5000 IU, temporarily, of Vitamin D3 per day. Within a week, his symptoms were better--language, muscle strength and more--and he cut back to 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily. Dr. Cannell warns that this is only one case and does not prove a permanent effect. For more on Vitamin D and autism, read the June 2008 newsletter at vitamindcouncil.org.
Resarchers at the National Jewish Health center in Denver found better lung function and better response to treatment among asthmatics who have high levels of Vitamin D.
Backache symptoms improved in 95% of a group of 360 chronic back pain patients who took a high dose (See your doctor!) of Vitamin D daily for three months.
Seniors who fell and fractured one or more vertebrae showed significantly lower vitamin D levels in their blood compared to seniors who had not had such fractures.
Source: The Bone & Joint Journal, January 2015
Data on more than 93,000 postmenopausal women showed that women with the lowest Vitamin D blood concentrations were 71% more likely to have a hip fracture. A United Kingdom study showed that 95 percent of hip fracture patients were deficient in Vitamin D, and that having adequate levels could reduce hip fractures by up to 50 percent.
Although a 2007 study says the only cancer Vitamin D helps to prevent is colon cancer, other studies done over the last seventy years have linked low levels of Vitamin D with 18 different kinds of cancer, as well as osteoporosis, lupus, hearing loss, high blood pressure, psoriasis, heart disease and diabetes.
Says Mark Stengler, NMD: One of the first things I do when a new patient comes to me for complementary cancer therapy is to ask if they've had their vitamin D level tested.
In the July 2014 issue of his newsletter, Health Revelations, Stengler mentions an analysis of 17,000 cancer patients, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Those with higher vitamin D levels had significantly better rates of survival and remission, especially those with colon or breast cancer. Vitamin D also showed a protective effect for those with lung, stomach and prostate cancer, leukemia, melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma. The list of benefits of vitamin D continues to grow.
A study published in 2008 followed more than 2,700 women. Risk of breast cancer went down as Vitamin D levels went up, to a blood level of 75 nmol/L. Says Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., "...those with the highest Vitamin D levels had up to a 70% decreased risk of breast cancer. That's similar to the level needed for preventing high blood pressure."
More on breast cancer and the benefits of Vitamin D from Jonathan Wright, M.D: A German study published in 2008 indicates that women who are deficient in Vitamin D are at increased risk of breast cancer. Another study, this time from Canada, suggests that women who have breast cancer are 94 percent more likely to have their cancer spread and 73 percent more likely to die if they are deficient in Vitamin D than women who are not deficient. Dr. Wright recommends spending "some time outside in the sunshine with your arms and face exposed (and sunscreen-free)," until your skin just starts to turn pink.
Breast cancer patients with high blood levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to survive the disease as women with low levels, according to University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers in the March 2014 issue of Anticancer Research. See the whole article.
A study of 500,000 Europeans from 10 Western European countries indicate that high levels of Vitamin D correlate with a lower risk of colon cancer--up to 40 percent lower risk for those with the highest blood levels of Vitamin D. Source: PubMed.gov, 1/21/10.
People with low blood levels of Vitamin D are more likely to have cardiovascular problems. A study involving more than 15,000 Americans found that those with low blood levels of Vitamin D had a 30% higher risk of high blood pressure, 47% more likely to have high triglycerides, 98% higher risk of diabetes, and 129% more likely to be obese.
A ten-year study of 18,225 men age 40 to 75, who did not have cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study, showed the following results: Men with the lowest levels of Vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack as men with the highest levels.
A British study showed that high levels of Vitamin D reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 33 percent in middle-aged and elderly people. Utah scientists saw risk reduction of 33 percent for heart attack, 20 percent for heart failure, and 30 percent reduction in risk from dying of any cause with good blood levels of Vitamin D.
The benefits of vitamin D include helping the heart in general. A study published in April, 2008 looked at patients with high blood pressure. Those who were deficient in Vitamin D were twice as likely to have angina, a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke as those with normal vitamin D levels.
In addition, those low in vitamin D are likely to suffer more severe effects of a stroke and have more trouble recovering.
New benefits of Vitamin D are related to childhood diabetes. Researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego found that rates of type 1 diabetes in children are related to geographical locations, specifically the amount of sunshine found at those locations. Says Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., professor of Family and Preventive Medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine: "This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide. "...childhood type 1 diabetes may be preventable with a modest intake of Vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day) for children, ideally with 5 to 10 minutes of sunlight around noontime..."
The study found that those living near the equator, with lots of sunshine, had significantly lower rates of type 1 diabetes than those living at northern latitudes.
In another study, researchers at Warwick Medical School found that adults with the highest blood levels of Vitamin D had a 55 percent reduction in risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Another benefit of vitamin D is that it may help the up to 25% of couples who are infertile, according to Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., who received a letter from a Registered Nurse detailing the effects of Vitamin D on three couples at the hospital where she works. One couple was infertile for ten years, another for three years, and a third had no cycles for three years. Within six weeks of Vitamin D treatment, all three couples returned to full fertility.
An analysis of 31 studies has shown that low levels of vitamin D can lead to serious complications of pregnancy. A study at the University of Calgary, Canada, found that women with low vitamin D levels are approximately 50 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes and 80 percent more likely to develop preeclampsia.
Mothers low in vitamin D have an 85 percent greater chance of delivering infants smaller than average and were more likely to get bacterial vaginosis. Source: The Nutrition Reporter, as seen in the Bonner County Daily Bee, 2/22/15.
Please visit our page on Natural Migraine Relief for details on Vitamin D for migraine headaches, along with other information on relieving migraines.
Dr. John Cannell, M.D., of the Vitamin D Council, reports that pelvic floor disorders in women are associated with low Vitamin D levels, according to researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse New York, who studied 1,961 women.
A paper on the study by Dr. Samuel Badalian and Paula Rosenbaum, was published in the April 2010 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Low Vitamin D levels predicted pelvic floor disorders, even in younger women, the study showed, and urinary incontinence was twice as likely in women who were deficient in Vitamin D as compared with women with higher Vitamin D levels.
A Tufts University study of more than 11,000 subjects found a significant association between low levels of Vitamin D and a higher risk of tooth loss from periodontal disease. A separate, British study of 170 people found an association between Vitamin D deficiency and inflammation, such as periodontal inflammation.
Vitamin D may protect against peripheral artery disease, also known as "PAD," a condition in which fatty deposits in the arteries affect circulation to the legs, resulting in numbness and pain, and sometimes leading to amputation.
In a study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, 4839 adults were monitored for Vitamin D blood levels in relation to PAD. Those who had the lowest levels of Vitamin D were most likely to have peripheral artery disease.
These results are preliminary, and more studies are needed to confirm the results, said the researchers.
Among the benefits of Vitamin D is that it strengthens bones. Vitamin D is well known for bone health, as it facilitates the absorption of calcium. Perhaps the best known Vitamin D deficiency disease is childhood rickets, which is characterized by soft, weak bones.
Do adults get rickets? Maybe. World-renowned Vitamin D expert Michael Holick, M.D., PhD, of Boston University Medical center thinks 40 to 60 percent of fibromyalgia diagnoses are actually osteomalcia, which is adult rickets. Like fibromyalgia, those with osteomalacia have "diffuse pain with tenderness at specific points." Unlike fibromyalgia, however, osteomalacia has a known cure: Vitamin D supplements.
My brother was diagnosed by an M.D. with fibromyalgia, and he was in severe pain for years. He started taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 along with EZorb, a calcium supplement that claims to help fibromyalgia. His pain is gone. Note that a 2003 study at the Mayo clinic looked at patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and similar chronic pain and found that 93 percent were deficient in Vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about this.
Benefits of Vitamin D may include helping to control pain in general: The Mayo Clinic found that patients deficient in Vitamin D required almost twice as much medication as patients who were not deficient.
You can go to your doctor for a serum vitamin D test, or you can get a home vitamin D test kit from the Vitamin D Council, new in 2015, costing $50 at that time.
Apparently our bodies were designed to get most of our benefits of Vitamin D from sunlight, because there are not a lot of natural sources of Vitamin D. Foods high in Vitamin D include oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and herring. Other Vitamin D food sources are egg yolks and liver. There are also a variety of fortified foods containing Vitamin D.
Spending time in the sun is the quickest, easiest way to get vitamin D. Because of the wealth of information now available on the benefits of vitamin D, conventional wisdom is changing about sun exposure. You can be out in the sun, as long as you don't burn; that is, that your skin doesn't turn pink. As a result, there is now a device you can wear to monitor your sun exposure. This wrist gadget can be worn with or without sunscreen, since you can change its sensitivity. However, some experts on vitamin D say that sunscreen interferes with vitamin D absorption. You start out by setting it for skin that is highly sensitive and work up, watching your skin for pinkness. When you have had enough sun, the LEDs on the monitor flash, telling you you have had enough. In 2015, this device was available from Best Buy for $50.
Want the benefits of Vitamin D? Julian Whitaker, M.D., recommends a Vitamin D dosage of 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily, especially in fall and winter. Note that D3 (not D2) is the best form of Vitamin D supplement to take. Dr. Whitaker says that some people require much more to bring their blood levels up to normal, to get the benefits of Vitamin D. Old age, obesity and darker skin are factors that increase the need for Vitamin D supplements.
Dr. David Williams believes that all darker skinned people should take Vitamin D supplements, such as cod liver oil or other D3, to get the benefits of Vitamin D, since few would spend the up to 50 times greater time in the sun than fair people to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D. He also says that the campaign to get people to avoid the sun or wear heavy sunscreen is contributing to disease, such as type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that the lower your Vitamin D level, the higher your blood glucose.
"A daily dose of 4,000 to 5,000 IU wouldn't be out of line based on the current research," says Dr. Williams, especially in the winter. One of my doctors, Merle Janes, M.D., takes 5000 IU a day, and he showed me the bottle of Vitamin D3 that had 5000 IU in a single capsule, the kind of capsule he takes to get the benefits of vitamin D.
Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., says that almost everyone needs to take a daily dose of 5000 IU [of Vitamin D] per day. He recommends that you have your blood levels of Vitamin D checked annually, even if you spend a lot of time in the sun. But HEY YOU THERE, READING THIS...CHECK WITH YOUR OWN DOCTOR! He/she may know of conditions you have that would alter the recommendation of a doctor who has never even met you!
To get the benefits of vitamin D, your blood levels of vitamin D should be between 40 ng/mL and 60 ng/mL says Mark Stengler, NMD. A study in Anticancer Research revealed that 4000 to 8000 IU daily is needed to maintain such a blood level of vitamin D in order to reduce risk of disease, including cancer and diabetes. No adverse effects were noted in the study, even after five years of these doses. Stengler says most of his patients require 5000 to 10,000 IU daily, with him monitoring their blood levels closely. Get a blood test for vitamin D levels from your doctor and have him suggest a dose and monitor you.
Regarding cod liver oil Vitamin D supplements, I've had recommended to me by experts the Carlson brand of Norwegian fish oils, but fish oil upsets my stomach, so I take Vitamin D 1000 IU gels. The source is cod liver oil, but they don't upset my stomach. No, I'm not going to tell you how much I take. Ask your doctor.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, the benefits of vitamin D supplements increase when supplements are taken with fat. In fact, vitamin D is 32 percent better absorbed when taken with a meal containing fat, any kind of fat, but naturally Dr. Julian Whitaker recommends the healthy kinds of fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish, such as salmon.
For those concerned about too much vitamin D or a vitamin D overdose, Dr. Whitaker notes that the Washington, DC-based Council for Responsible Nutrition says that "regular doses of 2,000 IU [of Vitamin D] have no known risk." In addition, an article in USA Weekend, October 5-7, 2007 has this quote: "Vitamin D supplements are safe up to a daily dose of 10,000 IU, experts say." (Nevertheless, always check with your doctor or health professional about what's safe and right for you.)
Health and Healing by Julian Whitaker, February 2015
Health Revelations by Mark Stengler NMD, July 2014
Bottom Line Natural Healing with Dr. Mark Stengler, June 2011
The Bob Livingston Letter, July 2010, reporting on information from John Cannell, M.D. about a study at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York.
U.C. San Diego Health System News Release: "Vitamin D Increases Breast Cancer Patient Survival. "http://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2014-03-06-vitamin-D-and-breast-cancer-survival.aspx
PubMed.gov, January 21, 2010: "Association between Pre-diagnostic Circulating Vitamin D Concentration and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in European Populations." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20093284?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.
Am J Clin Nutr. Nov 2007; 86(5): 1420–1425: "Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length [less aging] in women." As seen online at National Institutes of Health site: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2196219/
Alternatives newsletter, April 2007, and February 2008, by Dr. David Williams
USA Weekend, October 5-7, 2007.
Denise K. Houston, PhD, RD, instructor department of internal medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as seen in Bottom Line Health, September 2007.
Health Sciences Institute newsletter, December 2007
"A D-Lightful Way to Stay Healthy This Winter," Special supplement to Health & Healing newsletter by Julian Whitaker, M.D.
Health & Healing newsletter, by Julian Whitaker, M.D., October 2007.
Health & Healing newsletter, by Julian Whitaker, M.D., July 2008.
Women's Health Letter, February 2008, by Nan Fuchs, PhD
Second Opinion Health Alert by Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., June 6, 2008
Nutrition and Healing Health e-Tips, by Jonathan Wright, M.D. June 6, 2008
UC San Diego Newsletter, June 5, 2008. "Moores UCSD Cancer Center Study Links Vitamin D, Type 1 Diabetes," as seen online: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/archive/newsrel/health/06-08VitaminDType1Diabetes.asp
Alternatives newsletter, October 2008, by Dr. David Williams
Bottom Line Natural Healing with Dr. Mark Stengler January 2009
Annals of Internal Medicine, August 19, 2008, as described in Bottom Line Natural Healing with Dr. Mark Stengler January 2009
Prevention magazine, February 2009
Second Opinion Newsletter by Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., October 2009
Prevention magazine, December 2008
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