Vitamin D supplementation has been undergoing much research to determine what benefits the “sunshine vitamin” can offer, and it seems that overriding premature death tops the list, if the right amount is found consistently in the blood. Questions have been raised about how much sunshine is safe, since skin cancer has been a concern for sun worshipers. On the other hand, those receiving too little sunshine are at risk in other ways.
Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), have recently discovered that Vitamin D must be considered an essential nutrient and that too little of this sunshine vitamin points to premature death. Concentrations less than 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in the blood, falls below the level which would be considered safe. The National Academy of Sciences agreed with the School of Medicine at UCSD in these findings. Individuals whose blood levels fall below the 20 ng/mL are at twice the risk to die prematurely.
Dr. Cedric Garland and a group of co-researchers from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine decided to investigate bio-medical databases from previous research done on blood levels which analyzed this essential nutrient. The previous research had been conducted at the Institute of Medicine. All data which analyzed Vitamin D, in its primary form, was pooled from 32 studies in which the mortality rates were observed during the years 1966 through 2013. These combined studies covered 14 countries and included 566,583 subjects. Findings confirmed that those whose Vitamin D levels were in the highest 20 percent were in good standing, whereas those in the lowest 20 percent had nearly double the death rate. Observation in this study also revealed that those individuals having a blood level below the cut-off point accounted for a full two-thirds of the U.S. population.
A professor from UCSD’s School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine, Dr. Heather Hofflich, DO, stated in a press release that the public can now feel assured that Vitamin D is safe when appropriately taken. The recommended amount for adults is “up to” 4000 International Units (IU) per day, whereas those just past infancy, 1 year of age and above, should take 600 IU per day. The American Journal of Public Health has published these findings, which validate that proper levels of Vitamin D in the blood can override premature death with correct supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency can be tested by requesting the 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. It is recommended by Dr. Hofflich to be done annually. She encourages discussion with the doctor, after testing, to determine the right dosage of this essential nutrient, according to the individual’s need.
In order to maintain a healthy balance of Vitamin D, it is likely that sunshine alone is not enough. Along with supplementation, another option is to incorporate Vitamin D rich foods into the diet. Foods rich in Vitamin D are salmon, sardines, tuna, cow’s milk, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms. Researchers encourage incorporating all three options for taking in Vitamin D, which would be sunshine, supplementation and food.
Poor bone health had previously been the primary concern linked to Vitamin D deficiency. More recent discoveries now link the deficiency to brain damage, as well as increased risk for preeclampsia in pregnant women. The health benefits of Vitamin D include regulating the absorption of phosphorus and calcium in the bones, which helps protect and lubricate bones, teeth and hair. This essential nutrient is vital in strengthening the immune system, which aids in the prevention of chronic diseases and also regulates healthy cell activity and growth, aiding in cell communication.
It appears that a key to longevity may be found in the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplementation does far more than just offer strength to bones. It extends life to the cells. Overriding premature death through Vitamin D supplementation is now confirmed and encouraged for public health. So soak in the sunshine, take that essential nutrient and eat it too.
By Jill Boyer-Adriance