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Breakthrough Information You Need to Know About Vitamin D (part 1)

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In recent years vitamin D has emerged as a star of the “vitamin” world. There’s no question about it — vitamin D is garnering more excitement than any other vitamin out there, and deservedly so. Why all the enthusiasm? Read this article by Dr. Mercola to learn why.

Breakthrough Information You Need to Know About Vitamin D (part 1)

In recent years vitamin D has emerged as a star of the “vitamin” world. There’s no question about it — vitamin D is garnering more excitement than any other vitamin out there, and deservedly so.

Why all the enthusiasm? It’s largely related to our ability to accurately test for vitamin D with a commercial lab assay. This ability has only been developed in the last 10 years. That, and scientists have learned vitamin D turns on over 2,000 genes and can literally cut your risk of most cancers and other diseases by 50 percent!

The science is also very clear that unless you have taken specific measures to address it, the odds are overwhelming that you are deficient in this important nutrient. Over 85 percent of the U.S. population has less than optimal levels, which is why the information that follows is not only crucial, but urgent for your health.

What Exactly is Vitamin D?

Originally when scientists named vitamin D, they assumed it was a vitamin. But further research showed that it had been categorized incorrectly: vitamin D is actually a “prohormone” — one your body actually produces from cholesterol.

A prohormone is a precursor to a hormone, usually having minimal hormonal effect by itself.[i] According to vitamin D researcher and medical doctor John Cannell, “Vitamin D is… the only known substrate for a powerful steroid hormone — a “repair-and-maintenance” steroid hormone.”[ii]

Because it is a prohormone, vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” influences your entire body — receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.

So what modern science is now realizing is that vitamin D does more than just aid in the absorption of calcium and bone formation, it is also involved in multiple repair and maintenance functions, touches hundreds of different genes, regulates your immune system, and much, much more.[iii]

Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections. It produces over 200 anti microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.

And, when you consider the fact that you only have 30,000 genes in your body, and vitamin D has been shown to influence more than 2,000 of them, the bigger picture of its true impact on your health can be easily understood.

It may, in fact, have literally thousands of health benefits!

So it’s likely we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of vitamin D’s true potential for reversing many modern disease states.

The Two Forms of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is more than just “one” prohormone; it is actually a “group of fat-soluble prohormones,” the two major forms being vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).[iv]

Vitamin D2 is derived from plant products while vitamin D3 comes from animal products. Many vegans prefer to use D2, but the evidence is very clear that this is inferior to vitamin D3. If someone is given vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 simultaneously, the vitamin D2 levels in their blood go up and the vitamin D3 levels in their blood go down. That is, their body will preferentially use D3 over D2. [v]

Vitamin D3 is made naturally in your skin by exposure to sunlight. The action of a specific wavelength of ultraviolet light (UVB) produces the vitamin D, which is then transported to your liver and turned into calcidiol [(25(OH)D]. In turn, calcidiol is transported to your kidneys and transformed into the steroid calcitriol, which is excreted into your blood to help regulate calcium.[vi]

Why You Likely Need More Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and is contributing to many chronic debilitating diseases.

There are a few reasons for this. First, most of us spend far too much time indoors — often from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep.

You may have also been seriously misled by “expert’” recommendations to avoid all sun exposure,[vii] and to slather yourself with sunscreen when you do go outside. Sunscreen will virtually eliminate your body’s ability to produce any vitamin D because it blocks the UVB radiation that causes your skin to produce the vitamin D.

As a result, in the United States the late winter average vitamin D is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a serious deficiency state.

In fact, new studies show that about 85 percent of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. This is primarily related to the recent appreciation that our levels of vitamin D should be MUCH higher than previously thought (keep reading to find out what is considered an optimal vitamin D level).

Consider the following vitamin D facts:

  • Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation, such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India, who always wear sun protection, or who limit their outdoor activities[viii].
  • African Americans and other dark-skinned people and those living in northern latitudes make significantly less vitamin D than other groups.
  • 60 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes have vitamin D deficiency[ix].
  • Studies showed very low levels of vitamin D among children, the elderly, and women.
  • One nationwide study of women revealed that almost half of the African American women of childbearing age might be vitamin-D deficient.

Winter, when sun exposure is at its lowest, is the time of year when you need to be most concerned about the amount of vitamin D you are receiving, as your vitamin D levels can drop by up to 50 percent in the winter.

Of course, if you have the tendency to spend the summer months indoors, out of the sun, or you only go outside with sunscreen on, then you would need to be concerned during the summer months as well.

The Many Health Benefits of Vitamin D

It’s absolutely tragic that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of scaring people out of the sun — your optimal source for natural vitamin D.

Their widely dispersed message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during both work and leisure time, has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency seen today — which in turn is fueling an astonishingly diverse array of common chronic diseases, including:

  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Autism
  • Obesity
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes 1 and 2
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cold & Flu
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Septicemia
  • Signs of aging
  • Dementia
  • Eczema & Psoriasis
  • Insomnia
  • Hearing loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Cavities
  • Periodontal disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Macular degeneration
  • Reduced C-section risk
  • Pre eclampsia
  • Seizures
  • Infertility
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Migraines
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Schizophrenia

Vitamin D Helps Prevent Cancer

A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths — which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States — could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.[x]

And other studies showed that you can decrease your risk of cancer by MORE THAN HALF simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels with sun exposure.[xi]

Vitamin D has a protective effect against cancer in several ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

Vitamin D Keeps Your Brain Sharp

Keeping optimal vitamin D levels is especially important as you age. Researchers have, for the first time, identified a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive impairment, during a large-scale study of older adults.

The study looked at almost 2,000 adults aged 65 and over. As their levels of vitamin D went down, their levels of cognitive impairment went up. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired.[xii]

Previous research done by researchers at the University of Wisconsin also uncovered strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer’s patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests.

Scientists launched the study after family members of Alzheimer’s patients reported that those patients who had been treated with large doses of prescription vitamin D were acting and performing better than before.[xiii]

The researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells.

So vitamin D can impart tremendous benefits as you age — into your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. And it provides reassurance that you will keep your good health, instead of being afraid that you’re going to be diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, stroke, or some other disease down the road.[xiv]

Vitamin D Even Fights the Flu and the Common Cold

In 2006, Dr. Cannell began to suspect that vitamin D might fight viruses, so he started giving his patients vitamin D. And one year, when influenza swept through the other wards, it didn’t sweep through his ward.

All his colleagues began to wonder: was it the vitamin D?

Edgar Hope Simpson, somewhere in the 1980s, realized that there was a seasonality to influenza in the northern-southern hemispheres, and he linked that to the low solar UV. But he thought it was due to the UV light killing the microorganisms.

But what Dr. Cannell hypothesized was that it was probably due to the vitamin D.

So Dr. Cannell published a hypothesis paper in the British journal Epidemiology and Infection in December 2006. Almost immediately, a letter to the editor arrived from a group in New York State called Aloia and Leening. They had done a three-year vitamin D, double-blind study on black post-menopausal women, concerning bone health.

And during that three-year study, the women also developed nearly 30 cases of influenza or the common cold. The 104 women who were given the 800 I.U. per day developed six cases in the two years. And then, when they were given 2,000 I.U. per day, just one case developed, in the summer.

Their work helped confirm Cannell’s hypothesis, because it showed that two diseases that were caused by respiratory disease — in fact, viruses — were prevented with higher doses of vitamin D. [xv]

Further studies have now confirmed that vitamin D fights colds and flu[xvi] by regulating the expression of genes that cause your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.

I often find that some of the simplest explanations are the truest, and this sounds about as simple as it gets. Getting enough sunshine (or taking a vitamin D supplement when you can’t) is one of my KEY preventive strategies against the cold and flu, as it has such a strengthening effect on your immune system.

I’ll be discussing how much vitamin D is best later in the report, but for now let me just say that the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) spouted by the public health agencies are not nearly enough to keep you healthy.

In order to prevent the flu, children need 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D3, while adults need 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU.

If you do come down with a case of the flu, vitamin D can also help to eliminate the illness. The dose of vitamin D is 2,000 IU per kilogram of body weight, taken as one dose, every day for three days. If you start this program early on in the illness, it should be able to completely wipe out the flu.

Ideally, though, you won’t need supplements to get your vitamin D for at least part of the year, because sun exposure is really the best source.

Source: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/04/01/Breakthrough-Information-You-Need-to-Know-About-Vitamin-D.aspx

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 4:13 am and is filed under Articles, Research.

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