Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vitamin D – Eight Important Reasons To Ensure Sufficient Intake

by: Harry Monell

Until most recently, the general consensus among health researchers and practitioners held that the primary function of vitamin D was in helping the body to maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood, primarily for proper bone health throughout an individual's lifetime. But, more and more, research is showing that this important vitamin is playing a much larger role in the overall health of the body. The following issues are eight of the top reasons to ensure adequate bodily concentrations.

1. Increase bone density - It defends against osteoporosis by triggering the absorption of calcium into bone cells.

2. Lower risk of all forms of cancer - A large number of studies have shown positive results indicating that with adequate vitamin D, risks for most forms of cancer can be reduced. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that vitamin D supplements may lower risk by 77 percent. In fact, in many of the clinical studies, indications are that the disease may be prevented entirely. Benefits have been especially promising in clinical studies on cancers related to: Breast, Colon/Rectal, Pancreas, Prostate, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the Lungs.

3. Preserves Muscle strength - A common symptom of severe vitamin D deficiency is leg weakness. Senior citizens typically suffer from an inexorable muscle wasting that begins by age 40. In recent group studies Vitamin D blood levels were measured in elderly men and women and found that individuals who had higher readings also had greater thigh strength, concluding that blood concentration of vitamin D directly correlated with leg strength and function in these people. Another important result of the study showed that with a daily vitamin D intake of 800 units or more, falls were reduced to half of their pre-study level.

4. Energy metabolism - One of the newest identified functions of the hormonal form of vitamin D, known as 1,25-D, is its role in determining how the body manages energy. In other words, it means that without sufficient intake of vitamin D and calcium, cells burn fewer calories and store more of them as fat. And, it turns out that dairy products are more effective than plain calcium at inhibiting fat synthesis and actually augmenting fat breakdown.

5. Strengthen Immune System - Vitamin D appears to send a signal the cells triggering production of specific proteins needed to fight off disease and other conditions in which the immune system attacks the body's own healthy tissue.

6. Reduced risk of MS – Incidences of Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases tend to be rare near the equator, where ultraviolet light from the sun is intense and people produce an abundance vitamin D. In a recent study, women getting at least 400 IU of vitamin D per day showed only a 60 percent risk of developing MS compared to women getting less of the vitamin.

7. Tooth and gum health - Low blood concentrations of vitamin D were linked to gum disease in a study involving both men and women taking part in the federally sponsored National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The rate of loss in tooth-gum attachment was 25 percent higher among those participants with the least vitamin D.

8. Prevention of Diabetes - University of Pittsburgh researchers reported that a vitamin D deficiency affects the pancreas's release of insulin and found the risk of diabetes to be one-third lower in people with the highest concentrations of the vitamin.

So, how much of the vitamin do we really need?

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies in Washington, D.C., currently recommends that people from infancy through age 50 get 200 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, that those ages 51 through 70 receive 400 IU daily, and that anyone over 70 get a net of 600 IU. Sources include exposure to the sun, foods, especially dairy products and the meat of oily fish, such as tuna, salmon and mackerel, as well as, a variety of supplements.

But, no matter what the source, we now understand the importance of maintaining sufficient concentrations of vitamin D, as it contributes to the overall health and quality of life for each of us.

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Harry Monell is writing articles encouraging consumer awareness about a wide range of health and nutritional topics. For additional information and important resources, please copy into your web browser

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