How Much Vitamin D Should A 1 Year Old Have Did You Know That Vitamin D Can Make a Difference?

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Did You Know That Vitamin D Can Make a Difference?

Have you ever wondered if you are one of those people whose efforts to prevent skin cancer may have damaged your brain function because you are deficient in vitamin D?

It is called the sunshine vitamin because it is synthesized in our skin when we are exposed to direct sunlight. On the other hand, if you’re like me, we wear sunscreen to prevent cancer, and sunscreen blocks this synthesis process.

Vitamin D is known to improve bone health and regulate calcium levels, but recent research suggests it does much more. Scientists now link this fat-soluble nutrient to many functions in the body, including working with the brain. For example, it is now known that vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and can protect neurons and reduce inflammation.

As recently reported, a new European study found that subjects aged 65 and older with lower vitamin D levels were twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment as those with optimal vitamin D levels. Another study of subjects between the ages of 40 and 79 showed that people with lower levels of vitamin D processed information much more slowly, regardless of age.

A research project that gave 1,200 healthy postmenopausal women a placebo or calcium (1,500 mg) plus vitamin D (1,000 IU daily) found that women who received both vitamin D and calcium were 77 percent less likely to be diagnosed with cancer , especially breast cancer, in the next four years. A larger trial, the Womans Health Initiative, tested vitamin D (400 IU) and calcium or a placebo in 36,000 healthy women for an average of seven years. Those taking vitamin D did not have a lower risk of breast cancer than those taking a placebo. Many doctors felt that the dose of vitamin D in the study was not high enough and recommended further research with doses of at least 1000 IU.

The evidence for the beneficial effects of vitamin D on the human body is limited and mixed. A 2006 study and an early 2009 study in the Midwest, for example, found that pancreatic cancer is more common in people with high vitamin D levels. On the other hand, animal experiments and laboratory tests report that vitamin D protects the heart. It appears to suppress inflammation, which plays a significant role in cardiovascular disease. Framingham Heart Study subjects with low blood levels of vitamin D had a 60 percent greater risk of heart disease than those with higher vitamin D levels. Another study found that vitamin D may prevent blood pressure from rising.

The scientists concluded that the studies show a link between low vitamin D levels and a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases, but do not prove that one causes the other.

A new study called VITAL, or Vitamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL, is underway. The aim of the study was to investigate whether the vitamin D and omega-3 found in fish oil could reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke. This is a huge study looking at the effects of supplements on other diseases as well. They plan to study diabetes, high blood pressure, bone density, vision, memory loss, depression, autoimmune disease and other health outcomes.

It is already known that vitamin D can prevent falls and fractures, but only if you take enough vitamin D. How much is enough? In a study of people who lowered fasting blood sugar, they found that those who received vitamin D along with calcium had less elevated blood sugar than those who received a placebo. Now they want to repeat this study in clinical trials and see if vitamin D can actually reduce the risk of diabetes.

Another area that trials are covering is depression. There are many quality claims that vitamin D helps elevate mood, and VITAL is now planning a clinical trail to determine whether this is fact or wishful thinking. Because vitamin D has anti-inflammatory effects, many believe it can be used to reduce the risk of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and even multiple sclerosis. Again, more data is needed to draw a firm conclusion.

The VITAL trial will begin in January 2010 with researchers at Harvard University and elsewhere. I think we’ll be hearing a lot about VITAL over the next few years. In the meantime, talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D you need.

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