The benefits of Vitamin D are not much talked about in the press. That could be why most folks are unaware of the major benefits of Vitamin D. But please don't think that Vitamin D is not for you.
Vitamin D is another one of those fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble means that Vitamin D (along with Vitamin A and E) are stored by your body.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that your body can manufacture. Your body needs exposure to sunlight (without sunscreen) for this to occur.
Your body can also get benefits of Vitamin D from food sources or from supplements. Food sources of Vitamin D include cod liver oil, fatty fish like sardines, tuna or salmon, milk that is Vitamin D fortified and eggs.
However, most folks do not get the required amount of Vitamin D from their diet or exposure to sunlight.
Can't I Get the Benefits of Vitamin D from My Diet Alone
An article in the READER'S DIGEST titled "The Healing Vitamin" states that "Even with a healthy diet, you may be D-ficient (get it? D-ficient?)." The article argues that Vitamin D is not found in many foods and the foods that it is found in, people don't eat enough of.
In addition, folks are using sunscreen to keep the sun from damaging their skin. And even sunscreen with an 8 SPF cuts the UV rays necessary to make your Vitamin D to almost nothing.
An article in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION titled "Vitamins for Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults" points out the benefits of Vitamin D. It states that "low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteopenia (comes before osteoporosis) and fractures."
This same article goes on to state that "most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone" and "pending strong evidence of effectiveness from randomized trials, it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements."
Benefits of Vitamin D in Preventing Osteoporosis
Another article appearing in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION titled "Osteoporosis, Prevention, Diagnosis and Therapy" tells us that "adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is crucial to develop optimal peak bone mass and to preserve bone mass throughout life."
The major benefits of Vitamin D is in enabling your body to use calcium and phosphorous. Without Vitamin D, your body cannot process the calcium in your diet and starts taking it from your bones.
In adults, this results in the bone disease called osteoporosis. In children, a severe Vitamin D deficiency causes what's called rickets.
Rickets is a softening of bones in children and is rare in the industrialized nations though.
An article in the NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE titled "What Was Wrong With Tiny Tim" amusingly argues that Tiny Tim of the Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" fame is thought to have suffered from Rickets.
That's Not Very Funny
Although Rickets is rare in the industrialized world, osteoporosis is not. In the U.S. it is estimated that 10 million folks have osteoporosis. 18 million more have low bone mass making it highly likely that they too will eventually have this crippling disease.
Osteoporosis is a major health concern and major source of suffering for us older folks. It is estimated that one in two women and one out of every eight men over 50 years of age will have a fracture related to osteoporosis.
300,000 fractures of the hip, 700,000 fractures of the vertebrae, 250,000 fractures of the wrist and over 300,000 other fractures happen every year related to this disease.
Again, the major benefits of Vitamin D is that it enables your small intestine to absorb calcium from the foods you eat. Calcium is required by your muscles and nerves as well as for bone formation.
When your muscles and nerves are not getting enough calcium because of low Vitamin D levels, your body robs it from your bones.
Your bones then become porous and brittle. This does not happen overnight but over the course of your lifetime. That is why prevention of osteoporosis should begin at childhood. And making sure you get the benefits of Vitamin D along with an adequate supply of calcium is one way to do so.
Benefits of Vitamin D in Slowing Progression of Osteoarthritis
Another Osteo you say? Sorry! This time it's osteoarthritis (OA). This disease is a gradual deterioration of the cartilage in the joints. It is the most common form of arthritis.
Another of the benefits of Vitamin D is that it has been shown to lessen the severity of the pain and disability of this disease. The Arthritis Foundation has also reported on the link between low levels of Vitamin D and the increased progression of osteoarthritis of the knees.
Also, in an article in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION titled "Steps Toward Understanding, Alleviating Osteoarthritis Will Help Aging Population," we are advised that "preliminary results appear particularly strong for vitamin D."
Are There Other Benefits of Vitamin D? What About Vitamin D and Cancer?
More research is needed but preliminary studies have shown benefits of Vitamin D in areas such as high blood pressure, cancer of the colon as well as breast cancer and diabetes.
Can I Get My Benefits of Vitamin D Without Taking Too Much?
Dr Reinhold Vieth, Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto argues that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (birth to 50 years - 200 IU, 50+ years - 400 IU) may keep you from getting osteomalacia. But he feels more is needed to keep you from getting osteoporosis and secondary hyperparathyroidism.
In an article published in THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION, titled "Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety," he argues that our ancestors were "naked apes in tropical Africa (his words)." And as such they enjoyed full body exposure to the sun on a daily basis. This, he stated, could give them the equivalent of 10,000 IU every day (and possibly a severe sunburn - my words).
A Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) has been set by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. This is the level of Vitamin D that they suggest you do not exceed. The UL for infants 0 to 12 months old is 1000 IU. The UL for both children as well as adults is 2000 IU.
Studies done since 1997 suggest that the current UL is conservative and that Vitamin D is safe below levels up to as high as 10,000 IU.
Since multivitamins supply Vitamin D in doses of 400 to 800 IU as do the single supplements, you should feel more than safe getting your benefits of Vitamin D.