Studies have shown that about 36 percent of Americans have vitamin D deficiency. But if you want to lower your risk for cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases, adequate intake of vitamin D is essential. Sunlight is the recognized as the best natural source of vitamin D, but exposure to ultraviolet rays may seem counterintuitive to health conscious individuals. And people with pale skin could be better off using vitamin D supplements.
The benefits of vitamin D other than improving bone health are controversial, but scientific evidence has been accumulating that suggests vitamin D has a role in either the prevention of cancer, or the prediction of cancer’s outcome. Studies have also linked vitamin D deficiency to Type 2 diabetes and optimal levels of vitamin D with a lower incidence of the disease.
Vitamin D and cancer
Researchers at Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, Penn., set out to learn whether vitamin D levels are linked to any specific features of cancer. They wanted to know if vitamin D affected the stage or extent of tumor spread, prognosis and recurrence or relapse of the disease. Their study involved 160 cancer patients—80 men and 80 women–with a median age of 64 years. The five most common diagnoses were breast, prostate, lung, thyroid and colorectal cancer. More than three-quarters of the study subjects showed insufficient levels of vitamin D. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had the most advanced cancers.
The vitamin D deficient cancer patients were put on a regimen of supplements to boost their levels of the vital nutrient toward optimal levels. The researchers are continuing the study to see whether vitamin D supplementation has an impact on cancer treatment or survival in the long term.
Vitamin D and diabetes
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found a strong correlation between Type 2 diabetes and vitamin D deficiency. They examined 124 people with diabetes and more than 91 percent were found to be vitamin D deficient. The more vitamin D deficient the subjects were, the more out-of-control their diabetes.
Vitamin D supplementation
Most people should walk a fine line when it comes to vitamin D and cancer prevention. People with pale skin tend to be more prone to skin cancer and may be better off avoiding exposure to UV rays altogether. So how much vitamin D supplementation should pale-skinned people take? The optimal blood level of vitamin D has been defined as 60 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). A panel at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a daily intake of 600 international units (IU) for everyone up to age 70 and 800 IU for age 70 and older. Adults at risk for vitamin D deficiency may need at least 1,500 IU daily to maintain blood levels above 30 ng/ml.
Vitamin D foods
Healthy people are better off maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D by eating the right foods. Some of the foods highest in vitamin D include:
- Fortified Cereals
- Tofu and Soy Milk
- Salami, Ham and Sausages
- Fortified Dairy Products