While vitamin D is often touted for the essential role it plays in bone health, many consumers are unaware of the many other health benefits that can be provided by the “sunshine vitamin.” Low vitamin D levels have been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, immune system disorders, depression, and certain types of cancer. According to The Office of Dietary Supplements (a division of the National Institutes of Health) vitamin D is key to good health and the amount needed will vary by individual based on age and other factors.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Very few foods have vitamin D naturally, but it is often added to food products such as milk, breakfast cereals, certain brands of orange juice, and yogurt. Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel are good sources, but most people don’t eat sufficient quantities to get the recommend amounts of vitamin D. Millions of people take vitamin D supplements to ensure that their bodies are getting enough. Fortunately the supplements are safe, inexpensive, and easy to find in pharmacies and natural health stores.
Below are results from studies that confirm vitamin D’s role in the prevention and treatment of disease:
Diabetes: According to a 2011 article published in Diabetes Forecast magazine, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to insulin resistance in diabetics. Studies show that diabetics who increase their intake of vitamin D are able to boost their body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Cancer: Researches at the University of California, San Diego, found that sufficient vitamin D levels can lower the risk for breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. Studies reported by the National Cancer Institute suggest that vitamin D may help prevent colorectal cancer.
Cardiovascular Disease: Several recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiencies to an increased risk for heart disease. A news release from researchers at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO, noted: “Vitamin D deficiency is an unrecognized, emerging cardiovascular risk factor, which should be screened for and treated.”
Autoimmune Disease: Research suggests that vitamin D may be a key player in the prevention of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.
Talk to your physician, nutritionist, or holistic practitioner about including vitamin D as part of your overall stay-well strategy. Let the “sunshine vitamin” pave the way for a long, healthy life.