New research around vitamin D is showing that those deficient in the vitamin may have more far reaching implications than just bone health.
According to researchers, vitamin D may help to reduce or eliminate chronic pain due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, headaches and other types of pain as well as help with hypertension, psoriasis, several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), and reduce the incidence of fractured bones.
Vitamin D also helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis. In the Nurses Health Study, vitamin D intake was inversely associated with hip fracture risk compared with women with the lowest vitamin D intake. Women with the highest vitamin D intake reduced their fracture risk by 37 percent. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to improve bone health in older subjects.
Research has also indicated that vitamin D deficiency is linked to colon cancer and more recently, to breast cancer. And after assessing data from two other studies, researchers found that individuals who had higher levels had a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with low levels. It also is associated with higher risk of heart attack in men, according to a report in the June 9, 2008 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers also have determined that more than half of the people in the United States, and the rest of the world, are deficient in vitamin D. They also believe the currently recommended daily adequate intake of vitamin D – up to 600 IU per day – is outdated and too low. According to the study, most children and adults need at least 1000 IU per day, and persons with chronic musculoskeletal pain would benefit from 2000 IU or more per day of supplemental vitamin D.
There are basically two types of Vitamin D. The natural one is D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the same vitamin D your body makes when exposed to sunshine. The synthetic one (also made by plants) is vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). In your body, both need to be converted to a more active form. Here is the catch: Vitamin D3 is converted 500 percent faster than vitamin D2.
Therefore, Vitamin D3 is the preferred supplement.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts like a hormone in your body to help you absorb calcium. Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight (which is the best source), although you can also get a little vitamin D from fish and some fortified foods. However even with proper sun exposure and eating the right foods, one may become deficient in vitamin D.
If tested, the optimal value that you’re looking for is 115-128 nmol/L (50-55 ng/ml).
Keeping your level in this range, and even erring toward the higher numbers in this range, is going to give you the most protective benefit.
Vitamin D supplements are generally safe to take; just be sure you speak with your healthcare provider first.