Are we disregarding the facts?
Suppose scientists had developed an extremely safe medicine that could help you to prevent several kinds of cancer including breast cancer, help overcome infections like pneumonia and prevent diabetes, would you take it? Probably you would, and you don’t even have to wait for it to be developed, because it already exists: it is called vitamin D. How is it possible that such a well-known vitamin can do so much good without us being aware of it?
WHAT IS VITAMIN D?
The chemical structure of vitamin D was determined in the 1930s in Germany. holecalciferol is the naturally occurring form of vitamin D in the body and is also called vitamin D3. It is made from the cholesterol in your skin in large quantities when it is exposed to sunlight. There are many other metabolic and chemical forms of vitamin D. These so-called analogues are tinkered with by scientists. They are generally not as safe as cholecalciferol. Cholecalciferol is the safest form of vitamin D when taken in tablet or capsule form.
Rickets is caused by a complete absence of vitamin D in the body. It was widespread in the beginning of the 19th century, but it has by no means completely disappeared. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for babies of vitamin D, set by the UK government, is 8.5 mcg or 340 IU (International Units) a day, the amount believed to prevent rickets.
A well-known vitamin D expert, Dr. Vieth, says that vitamin D is extremely safe. He was amazed about the lack of toxicity reports from vitamin D. According to Dr. Vieth human toxicity begins after continual daily consumption of approximately 40,000 IU a day (100 tablets of the 400 IU RDA). Although vitamin D can be toxic in excess, even water becomes toxic if you drink ten times the recommended amount of 2 litres daily.
THE SUN AND VITAMIN D
If you took 100 tablets of 200 IU (20,000 IU) at one go you would only do yourself good. That much vitamin D is naturally made by exposing your bare skin to the sun, in a single day of sunbathing, near a pool in Spain. For the majority of people 90% of the body’s vitamin D comes from sun exposure. Humans make at least 10,000 IU of vitamin D within 30 minutes of full body exposure to the sun. Vitamin D production in the skin occurs within minutes and is already maximized before your skin turns pink. This means it is not necessary to be in the sun for the whole day. In fact, it is preferred that you do not, since excessive sun exposure can produce skin cancer.
VITAMIN D AND CANCER PREVENTION
The earliest connection between the prevention of cancer and vitamin D was made somewhere in the 1930s. The observation was that people who spent years in the sun, and developed a benign form of skin cancer, were less likely to develop colon, breast and prostate cancer. There appeared to be a very real connection between benign skin cancer and protection against more serious cancers: vitamin D.
In the late 1980s it was discovered that sunlight reduces the risk of colon cancer. It was also discovered that women exposed to sunlight were half as likely to die from breast cancer as were women who spent less time in the sun. Researcher G. Schwartz discovered the same about prostate cancer. Both groups strongly suspected vitamin D production through sun exposure to be the likely explanation. This established the connection between benign skin cancer and lower risk of serious internal cancers: those who developed benign skin cancer had, through sun exposure, developed high vitamin D levels.
Canadian researchers found in 2004 that vitamin D, especially when taken with calcium, significantly reduced abnormal mammograms. Women with the highest vitamin D uptake had only one fourth as many abnormal densities on their mammogram as had women with the lowest intake.
The role of vitamin D in both avoidance and treatment of breast cancer is now intensively explored by scientists, and results have been very promising. It is Calcitriol that inhibits breast cancer cells from growing. This form of vitamin D inhibits the formation of excessive blood vessel growth around the cancerous tumour, a process called anti-angiogenesis.
In the 1990s, USA scientists looked at how many women may be dying needlessly from breast cancer due to low vitamin D blood levels. The researchers measured the amount of sunlight available to the women. They found that women in the sunniest areas of the USA had about half the chance of dying from breast cancer as were women who lived in less sunny areas.
The best way to elevate vitamin D levels, without sunshine available, is to take physiological doses of cholecalciferol: plain vitamin D. This would amount to 2000-4000 IU (100-200 times the RDA) vitamin D daily until blood levels are normal again. This is to be determined in a doctor’s laboratory.
Vitamin D expert Dr Cannell has studied 120 reports that suggest a possible link between vitamin D and resistance in winter against infections. He points to studies showing that in winter, colds, flu, and other respiratory diseases are more common than they are in summer. During winter, ultraviolet-light exposure tends to be low because people spend more time indoors. Cannell's group cites a 1997 study showing that the rate of pneumonia in Ethiopian children with rickets (meaning a vitamin D deficiency) was 13 times higher then in children without rickets. Many more studies have shown that vitamin D can improve immunity against infections like pneumonia, colds and the flu.
Diabetes is rapidly developing into an epidemic; both type I and type II. Children suspected of having rickets during the first year of life have a three times higher chance to contract diabetes type I, compared to those without such a suspicion.
In a study thousands of children were tested from birth on developing diabetes type I. They were followed-up at age 1 year. More than 10,000 children were included in the analyses. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with a strongly decreased frequency of developing type I diabetes.
In another study children who took 2000 IU vitamin D daily (10 tablets of 200 IU) had a 5 times lower chance of contracting diabetes I, compared with those who received less than this amount. Dietary vitamin D supplementation, much higher then now recommended, seems associated with a reduced risk of type I diabetes. Supplying adequate vitamin D for infants can help to reverse the increasing trend in the incidence of type I diabetes.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR OWN HEALTH
It is very likely that the future holds even better vitamin D news to come. Don’t wait for the pharmaceutical companies to market it though. Cholecalciferol occurs naturally, cannot be patented, and is very cheap, so it will never become a prescription medicine.
Dr. Cannell recommends that in summer everyone has 10 minutes sun exposure a day on face and arms to obtain the optimum daily amount of vitamin D. Doing this for only 10 minutes the risk of skin cancer will be virtually non-existent.
When sun exposure is limited in winter make sure that you take 1000-1600 IU vitamin D in the form of food supplements. Doing this will slash your risk of serious infections and lessen your chances of certain forms of cancer.
Infants receiving vitamin D supplements will reduce their risk of acquiring type I diabetes. It may well be a good idea to re-introduce a government vitamin D programme for small children, to fight the impending epidemic of diabetes.
© Dhyan Broeksma