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Top 3 Benefits of Vitamin D

3. Lower Risk of Cancer

In 1980 epidemiologists reported that low vitamin D levels were associated with a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Since then, researchers from around the world have linked low vitamin D levels to a higher risk of breast, ovarian, kidney, pancreatic and aggressive prostate cancer.

Would vitamin D supplements or greater sun exposure help protect against these cancers? The answer is yes, according to research by Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, of the University of California, San Diego.

Garland and his colleagues calculated that the incidence of colon cancer in the United States and Canada could be cut in half if people took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, and that women would reduce the incidence of breast cancer by half if they took 3,500 IU of vitamin D daily.

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How Much Should You Take?

So all this comes back to the questions: Should you take vitamin D? And if so, how much? Hereís the best advice culled from experts.

ē The ideal approach is to ask your doctor for a vitamin D blood test, which will eliminate the bulk of the guesswork ó but not all of it. Because of individual differences in absorption and use, people may need to take differing quantities of vitamin D to achieve a healthy blood level. Make sure your doctor orders a ď25-hydroxy vitamin DĒ test. Other tests might result in a false normal. Although levels below 30 ng/ml indicate a deficiency, many physicians havenít kept up with the research on vitamin D and believe that this level is just fine. The optimal level is at least 40 ng/ml and perhaps 50 ng/ml, says Heaney. But higher amounts, within reason, arenít necessarily bad. Surfers, lifeguards and people who spend a lot of time outdoors typically have levels of 70 to 90 ng/ml.

ē If you donít currently have a significant deficiency, and if during the summer you spend a lot of time in the sun, with at least your arms and legs exposed, and you are not always slathered with sunscreen, you probably donít need to take vitamin D supplements. Holick, who wrote The Vitamin D Solution (Hudson Street Press, 2010), suggests getting approximately 10 minutes of sun exposure (depending on time of day, season, latitudinal location and skin pigmentation) before applying sunscreen. Vitamin D made from the sun actually lasts longer in the body, compared with vitamin D from supplements or foods (also note that with the exception of wild salmon and shiitake mushrooms, most foods arenít great sources of vitamin D).

ē If itís fall, winter or early spring, if you donít get a lot of sun exposure, or if you know you are D-deficient, you should definitely take vitamin D supplements (most health pros recommend vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol). Your need will be greater if you are north of the latitude of Atlanta, since you will make little if any vitamin D from sun exposure during the months of November through March.

ē If you have not taken a vitamin D blood test and youíre looking for general guidelines, Holick suggests that children take 1,000 to 2,000 IU and adults take 2,000 to 3,000 IU daily. “The bottom line for me is that there is probably no evidence that these amounts pose any risk,” he says. Cannellís recommendation: Don’t drive yourself crazy with all the qualifications. “Just take 5,000 IU a day, unless youíre going outside to work or to the garden or beach.” The higher amount might be particularly helpful for people with a chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia, arthritis or lupus, adds Hunninghake. “These high doses of vitamin D, while generally safe, should be monitored with follow-up blood level [tests],” he says.

And what of the risks? For most people, vitamin D toxicity occurs after taking more than 40,000 IU daily for months, says Cannell. So as long as you’re being moderate in your intake, don’t sweat.

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

105 comments

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2:04AM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

Just found out today that my Vitamin D level is at 36% which isnt good so now I ll have to take Vit D with calcium and see how I go in Feb when I have the test again. Good that we are coming into summer but I cant sit in the searing heat as I d burn to a crisp then Id have to deal with other issues. Hooohumm.

2:18PM PST on Nov 29, 2012

Very important, thanks

9:31PM PDT on May 3, 2012

Vitamin D is one of the health benefitting nutrients for our body. You might think that this essential vitamin could only be obtained from the sunlight exposure but there are also foods that contain vitamin D. The most important benefits of Vitamin D are prevention of flu virus infections, healthy bone development, increase in body’s immunity, regulation of blood pressure and strengthening of the white blood cells. Most fruits and vegetables have their own essential vitamins in preventing diseases and maintaining our body healthy. That is why it is more important to consume these foods in their natural form. Thank you for sharing this health content, keep it up! (SHARED TO SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES)

Mark Cruz
NewVitality

5:13PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

very informative

5:19AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Thanks.

7:08PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

While I spend a lot of time outside in the summer, the rest of the year it is frequently cloudy here and too cold to have a lot of skin exposed. I was taking D3 but apparently not enough because my lab test came back at 24. I definitely recommend getting tested to have a better idea of how much you really need.

1:16PM PST on Feb 29, 2012

Already take it and feel so much better

4:56PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

10 minutes of sun a day!

10:24AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

thanks

8:05AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

My sister and my best friend had to take a presciption of Vitamin D for awhile because they were both low. I had my doctor check me and he said mine was fine. The difference is that neither one of them get outside much. I love to work out in the yard. I do take a suppliment in the winter because it is too cold to work outside. But, as soon as Spring gets here, out I go.

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