The Benefits of Vitamin D: Get to Know the "Sunshine Vitamin"

Benefits of Vitamin D - Did you know your body can make some of its own vitamins?

Your body makes vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin. Actually, vitamin D is both a vitamin and a hormone. Vitamin D is a vitamin because bones can't use calcium without it. Vitamin D is a hormone because the skin makes it in response to sunlight.

Too much sun, as we all know, is a risk factor for skin cancer. Not enough sun, as not everybody knows, is a risk factor for people who don't get the benefits of vitamin D.

And what's one of the major results of low vitamin D? Increased risk of skin cancer!

Scientists have long suspected that vitamin D is a natural anti-cancer agent. Decades of research now suggest that vitamin D protects against skin cancer and several other kinds of cancer by promoting "apoptosis."

One of the benefits of vitamin D is its ability essentially to tell the cancer cell to switch itself off and stop reproducing. It may in some cases even cause cancer cells to revert to normal cells.

And the anti-cancer benefits of vitamin D are just the beginning. Other potential applications of vitamin D include:

  • Alzheimer's Disease. Preliminary studies show that vitamin D may increase the rate of cellular repair in the brain 200%.
  • Prostate cancer. Vitamin D seems to have a special anti-cancer potency in the prostate.
  • Breast cancer. Women who consume 500 IU of vitamin D a day with low-fat dairy products have a greatly reduced risk of developing breast cancer before menopause.

Of course, cancer prevention is only one of the benefits of vitamin D. The major application of vitamin D? Bone health!

You need calcium and phosphorous for healthy bones, but your bones can't absorb these minerals without the hormones your body makes with the help of vitamin D.

Researchers at Harvard University recently completed a study of 72,337 women over 18 years. They found that women who got the benefits of vitamin D from consuming what was once considered a high dose (about 500 IU) in food and supplements had a greatly lowered risk of broken hips. The Harvard researchers concluded that neither milk nor calcium is enough to maintain bone health, and that taking vitamin D supplements is a good idea.

No fracture is more likely to lead to death and disability than a broken hip. Vitamin D definitely helps prevent this condition. And although osteoporosis is more commonly associated with women than with men, over 5 million men a year in North America alone develop this disease.

Vitamin D also prevents that scourge of the early twentieth century, rickets.

Rickets is a condition of brittle bone in children and young adults that usually can be prevented by exposure to sunlight. In the early age of the industrial revolution, children were forced to work indoors in factories and never got to see the sun. These unfortunate children suffered vitamin D deficiency and rickets.

Amazingly, rickets occurs in the United States today - but not because young children are forced to work in factories. In the twenty-first century, rickets most commonly occurs in children of good parents and good homes. It is, for reasons doctors don't understand, most common among African-Americans, in the Southeast, and among children who are breastfed.

Who may need supplemental vitamin D to get the full range of benefits of vitamin D?

The skin's ability to convert vitamin to its active form begins to decline at age 20. Your body's production of vitamin D goes down as soon as you become an adult. By the time you are 65, your body's production of vitamin D with the help of the sun goes down as much as 60%. Improper diet, menopause, and lack of sun also contribute to vitamin D deficiency.

So who needs supplemental D? The short answer is, just about every adult.

Vitamin D is especially important to persons over 65, women past menopause, and anyone who uses sunscreen on a regular basis. Vitamin D supplements are also important to people on low-fat or low-calorie diets, or who have difficulty absorbing fats in foods. People with celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, Crohn's disease, or inflammatory bowel disease and people who have had intestinal surgery all need extra vitamin D.

Can you get too much vitamin D?

The short answer is, it"s not likely.

Your body can never overproduce vitamin D. You could take enough vitamin D to experience nausea, rashes, vomiting, constipation, and weight loss - but you would have to take about 100 times the recommended daily dose, over 40,000 IU per day, vastly more than you need to get the full benefits of vitamin D.

On the other hand, senior women definitely need more vitamin D than the US RDA. An article in the May 2005 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that the 600 IU a day vitamin D usually recommended for women over 65 may not be enough to prevent bone deterioration. The real amount of vitamin D needed to prevent bone loss is probably closer to 1000 IU per day.

An unexpected benefit of taking higher dosages of vitamin D, the scientists report, is fewer falls. Not only are bones less likely to break, tendons are stronger so falls don?t happen.

Can't you get enough benefits of vitamin D by drinking milk?

In a word, no. The kind of vitamin D added to milk is ergocalciferol, known as vitamin D2. The kind of vitamin D your body actually uses is cholicalciferol, or vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 tends to accumulate in skin and has to be converted to the bone- and cancer-protective vitamin D3.

There isn't a lot of vitamin D in the foods we eat, with the exception of cold water fish. You actually could get all the vitamin D you need from a daily dose of cod liver oil. Even if your cod liver oil is mixed with cherry juice, the way it is sometimes served for breakfast in Norway, chances are you'll prefer the taste, or lack of taste, of a vitamin capsule.

The best way to get the benefits of vitamin D is in a balanced nutritional supplement that gives you not just vitamin D, but at least a small dose of the minerals it mobilizes. You need a supplement manufactured with attention to good manufacturing practices, in a form your body can readily absorb, preferably formulated so you don't need to take a lot of pills and capsules. And if you are a woman over age 65 or if you have a personal history of osteoporosis, consider taking additional vitamin D and calcium in addition to your balanced multi-nutritional supplement.

A Trustworthy Comprehensive Product

One company that produces such a product to pharmaceutical GMP compliance is Xtend-Life Natural Products from New Zealand, which far exceed U.S. FDA requirements for nutritional supplements. Their flagship product, Total Balance , contains Vitamin D as well as over 70 nutrients including vitamins A, B, C, E, as well as many other vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, amino acids specialty nutrients and enzymes.

We here at have been taking Total Balance for the past 18 months with excellent results.

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