New findings on vitamin D’ s anti-cancer benefits add to the growing list of this hot nutrient’s attributes. A recent U.C. San Diego study demonstrated that an additional 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day could reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50% and breast and ovarian cancer by 30%. These results were followed by another study from Northwestern University, which demonstrated just 400 IU of vitamin D per day reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer by 43%.
Researchers began to more deeply investigate vitamin D’ s possible chemo-protective benefits after observing higher cancer rates in northern latitudes with limited sunlight (which triggers the body’ s vitamin D production). Vitamin D was first identified by its deficiency, which caused rickets, a bone-deforming disease that once afflicted the very young (now very rare, primarily due to milk fortification). This led to the understanding of how vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium, thus supporting healthy bones, joints and teeth. In fact, among those 50 and older, those with lowest vitamin D levels have been found to have at least 25% more tooth loss.
While naturally occurring sources of vitamin D include white/button mushrooms and some seafood (oysters, canned salmon, sardines and mackerel), getting this much vitamin D solely from one’s diet can be challenging. The best source of vitamin D is exposure to natural sunshine. Excessive sun exposure can cause skin cancer and wrinkles so be sure to use sunscreen when basking for more than 15 minutes. Various factors can affect vitamin D levels. Long winter months, smog and darker skin can inhibit the body’ s ability to absorb the sunlight needed to produce vitamin D.
Published December 1, 2006