- Benefits for bone health
- Benefits for heart health and circulation
- Benefits for the immune system
- Benefits for autoimmune disease
- Benefits for diabetes and blood sugar control
- A toxic misunderstanding about vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system’s battle against infection and control of inflammation. Immune cells have vitamin D receptors, and activated vitamin D is a very effective modulator of immune functioning, reducing the inflammatory response and limiting autoimmune attacks. For decades, it has been noted that many autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in northern climates. For example, the incidence of multiple sclerosis on persons living north of the 37th parallel is almost twice that of those living below the 37th parallel (below Newport News, VA, and Santa Cruz, CA). Overall, multiple sclerosis (MS) is much more prevalent in northern latitudes. Further a study as far back as 1986 showed vitamin D significantly reduced debilitating MS flair-ups. On top of this, preliminary studies document that vitamin D is effective in rheumatoid arthritis, Sjorgren’s syndrome, and thyroiditis.
Benefits for your nervous system from SAD to Alzheimer’s disease
Who has not noticed that they feel better on a bright sunny day? While sunlight “nourishes” us in many ways, scientists now know that part of the magic of sunlight has to do with vitamin D. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease all have been linked in one way or another to vitamin D. For example, both bright light therapy and vitamin supplementation have proven helpful in reducing the symptoms of the SAD “winter blues.” Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients have been found to have lower levels of vitamin D, and recent research by Danish neuroscientist Dr. Darryl Eyles suggests that exposure to vitamin D during conception and pregnancy can reduce the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Vitamin D deficiency is more common than expected
Given the fact that it is the only “free vitamin” easily available from sunlight exposure, and the fact that many foods are fortified with it, one might expect that most people would have adequate vitamin D levels. New research from around the globe, however, now documents that worldwide more people are more deficient in this nutrient than any other.
It is now clearly documented that at least one billion people worldwide have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D, and that this inadequacy directly impacts health maintenance and the development and progression of many chronic diseases. And just who are these one billion vitamin D deficient people?
- Two-thirds of postmenopausal women studied in rural Nebraska had vitamin D deficiency, i.e., levels below 32 ng/mL.
- In a Boston area study of women and men ages 65 and over, more than 90% of those studied had vitamin D levels below that required for optimum parathyroid hormone control.
- Vast numbers of children are deficient in vitamin D. For example, in Maine, 48% of Caucasian girls, ages 9–13, were vitamin D deficient at the end of the winter, and 17% were still deficient at the end of the summer.
- More than half of all African Americans in the United States are either chronically or seasonally at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Melanin skin pigmentation absorbs vitamin-D-producing UVB radiation; thus, dark-skinned people need six times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as lighter skinned individuals.
- In Boston, 52% of African American and Hispanic adolescent boys and girls are vitamin D deficient throughout the year.
- The vitamin D status of 57% of Massachusetts General Hospital patients studied in 1998 was below the adequate, healthful level.
- At Boston Medical Center, 32% of students and doctors ages 18–29 were vitamin D deficient at the end of the winter.
- Up to 90% of elderly in the UK, and 86% of elderly Swiss, are known to be vitamin deficient.
- In Saudi Arabia, serum vitamin D concentrations in young people are very low, ranging from 2.4 ng/mL to 19.3 ng/mL.
- In New Delhi, a study of 760 children from both the lower and upper economic sectors found the mean vitamin D level to be 11.8 ng/mL. This indicates a high degree of vitamin D insufficiency among Indian school children.
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