For many years, researchers have been puzzled by the statistical fact that people living at higher latitudes in the world, has a much higher risk of dying from cancer. Many people have also wondered why seasonal flu and colds, almost always occur more frequently during winter time.
An explanation to these two mysteries are now slowly beginning to emerge. The answer is very simple, but fascinating: lack of sunlight can have a detrimental effect on your health and well-being.
Men and women exposed to the most sunlight throughout their lives are less likely to die of cancer . The explanation for this, comes from the newly discovered role that Vitamin D has on overall health. The major source of Vitamin D exposure for humans is sunlight, hence anything that interferes with the penetration of sunlight into the skin will have a negative effect on the body’s ability to create Vitamin D stores. This now turns a lot of public health recommendations upside down. Yes, extreme sunburn and overexposure to sunlight can be hazardous, but so can
overuse of sun blocking creams and avoidance of sunlight. The common recommendation for the avoidance of all sun exposure has now put the world’s population at a serious risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency. Now, what is so dangerous about Vitamin D deficiency one may ask?
This is where recent research literally is flooding us with new discoveries of the serious impact vitamin D deficiency can have, and how vitamin D supplementation can reduce mortality rates.
The researchers find one new, good feature after another – and vitamin D is considered, among other things, to strengthen the immune system, prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and depression. The more studies done, the more benefits are found. By strengthening the immune system, vitamin D have also been shown to provide protection against influenza. Vitamin D is simply, the researchers’ new darling. A super vitamin that seems to help for almost anything. Here comes a brief summery of the latest findings.
1) Vitamin D protects against heart attacks.
Further evidence that vitamin-D deficiency may increase the risk of heart disease, has come from a new large case-control American study among middle-aged men . The authors, led by Dr Edward Giovannucci (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA), found that a doubling of the levels of vitamin D in the blood reduces the risk of heart attack. As the sun is the main source of vitamin D, it may explain why more suffer a heart attack during the dark winter months. It is known that many Swedes for example, are deficient in vitamin D during winter months.
Researchers followed 18,225 men for ten years who at baseline were aged 40 to 75 years. During the period 454 men suffered a heart attack. Analysis of blood samples showed that the risk was more than doubled for those with the least vitamin D in their blood, but also those with average levels had a 60 percent increased risk. The results are published in the prestigious medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
2) Vitamin D supplements reduces risk of dying prematurely.
Eating extra vitamin D supplements can prolong life. Supplementing with Vitamin D can reduce the risk of dying from any disease by eight percent, according to a major international study . Leading scientists are now calling for an international debate on fortification of food and a careful reassessment of our restrictive approach to sunbathing.
Researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO) International Institute for Research on Cancer in Lyon, IARC, reviewed 18 large studies on vitamin D published until November 2006. A total of 57,311 persons were followed for almost six years. During this period 4777 of them died. When the researchers played together all the different causes of death, they found that the overall mortality rate was eight percent lower among those who regularly was taking additional vitamin D supplements. The daily supplement intake ranged between 300 and 2000 international units, IU, but was on average, at a level that is normally available in ordinary vitamin tablets, more specifically, 528IU. In the nine studies, blood samples of those who ate supplements, contained levels of vitamin D in their blood, which was between 1.5 and 5.2 times higher than those without the vitamin D supplements.
3) Increasing doses of vitamin D may reduce cancer risk.
High doses of vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing several common cancers such as breast, ovarian and colon cancer, U.S. researchers argue in a new study. Previous studies have shown that extra supplements with vitamin D ,may reduce the risk of various cancers such as prostate cancer and lymphoma.
In 2006 researchers at the University of California at San Diego, after having gone through 63 international studies conducted between 1996 and 2004, have discovered that an increased daily dose of vitamin D can prevent other cancers as well [4,5]. A daily dose of 25 micrograms (1000IU) of vitamin D may reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50 percent and cancer of the breast and ovary by 30 percent, the researchers claimed in their study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
We naturally make our own vitamin D from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but also receive it through foods such as fish, meat and butter and vitamin supplements. Professor Cedric Garner, who led the meta-study, believes it is justified to increase the intake of vitamin D through diet and possibly supplements of vitamin D tablets.
A Swedish study showed, that the person who in his youth did a lot of sunbathing, and thus produced increased levels of vitamin D, ran a 30-40 percent lower risk of contracting the cancer form called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma later on in adult life.
Now, how do we personally increase our vitamin D levels? In sun poor countries like Sweden, we rarely get enough of this super vitamin. Every other Scandinavian can be deficient. The symptoms are vague at first, but early signs may be depression and fatigue. Therefore, we must be out in the sun as much as possible, and let it shine on our bare skin during the summer months. However, walking around naked outside in the winter time is just not practical for most of us.
There are however, some simple steps that you can take to optimize your daily vitamin D intake.
Four ways to increase your vitamin D intake:
1.Sunbathing – 15-30 minutes of strong sun exposure daily – with plenty of bare skin (without sunscreen), but without burning yourself of course, is a very effective method. This provides five times the daily requirement. Works in Scandinavia only midday hours from May to August. So it’s not enough the whole year, if you do not regularly go on holiday to the south. Simple rule of thumb: the sun must be up at least 45 degrees above the horizon (so that your shadow is shorter than you) for efficient vitamin D formation. Otherwise the atmosphere filters away almost all the UVB radiation.
2.Eating oily fish – Such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Provides good vitamin D contributions, but you need around 350 grams of fish a day to produce the recommended daily amount.
3. Eat more eggs – Eggs provide a rich sourch of Vitamin D, however you would need to eat 18 eggs a day to get 1000iu!
4. Daily Vitamin D Supplement Tablets – Effective way to get the correct vitamin D amount regularly throughout the year. Older supplements brands usually have very small doses, such as 400iu. Take a good brand like Solgar Vitamin D3 that provide at least 1000iu (25ug) per tablet.
So finally, in order to live long, enjoy the sun on bare skin, and eat as much oily fish as possible.