Vitamin D is now known to be the single most important vitamin in cancer prevention. Groundbreaking studies in the past three years have confirmed that adequate Vitamin D is most likely to be the major factor in cancer prevention. Studies have identified a potential 60 percent or greater reduction in the incidence of cancer of the breast and colon in people with adequate Vitamin D.
This staggering fact has caused international bodies around the world to rapidly reconsider recommendations about Vitamin D. A little known fact is that in spite of its name, Vitamin D is in fact a hormone (not a vitamin) and that is why it has such far reaching consequences when low and why it is so influential in the body.
Vitamin D is synthesised in skin upon exposure to UVB in bright sunlight. Our exposure to sunlight has decreased in the past three decades with well-meaning health authorities undertaking massive campaigns to reduce sun exposure in order to reduce skin cancer. Meanwhile overall cancer rates have escalated dramatically.
Explanations for this have focused on pollution, other toxins and stress the of our modern world. The answer to the problem, it seems, is as simple as Vitamin D. Numerous population studies have convincingly shown that cancer rates are the highest amongst people with the lowest Vitamin D levels. Even moderately low levels are associated with a high risk of cancer. What is very worrying is that vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, with those particularly at risk being people living in Northern latitudes, Asian, Indian or Black skin types, people who avoid the sun, babies of Vitamin D deficient mothers, the elderly, and people who wear full coverage clothing.
This frenzy of recent study into the possibility that Vitamin D is the single best factor for cancer prevention has identified that Vitamin D is likely to be a key player in the prevention of many other diseases. The strongest links to date are with breast and colon cancer, but other cancers including pancreatic and, ironically even skin cancer, are linked with low levels of Vitamin D.
The connection goes even further than with cancer. So far very convincing links have been shown between low Vitamin D and the number of colds and flus one gets; multiple sclerosis; blockages in the heart vessels; autism; depression and seasonal affective disorder (sadness in the winter); diabetes; and weight gain. One study even revealed that women will gain 40 percent more weight
in their 40s and 50s if they are deficient in Vitamin D.
In my own observation, of 400 people between the ages of 5 and 50 in Hong Kong, only 5 percent had over the recommended blood level of 50 ng/ml for cancer prevention. These were predominantly Caucasian, Chinese and Indian people living the typical Hong Kong life of indoor office or school, sunscreen use and wearing urban clothing.
Many health bodies are scrambling to adjust their recommendations regarding sun exposure. In Canada, where sun is limited, the Canadian Cancer Society has now recommended taking 1000 IU supplement of Vitamin D daily during the low sun months, or year round for those with little sun exposure, dark skin types, or persons over 60 years. This is the first time a supplement has been recommended by an official body for preventing cancer.
Unfortunately Vitamin D has very few natural sources other than sunlight. It is found in tuna, salmon and cod liver oil and milk if it has been fortified. Multivitamins and calcium tablets tend to contain low levels of 400 IU which satisfy the now outdated recommendations. While our knowledge of this pivotal connection unfolds reasonable recommendations for living are as follows: Prior to applying sunscreen, be sure to get 10 to 20 minutes of exposure without sunscreen of naked skin – arms, face and chest are good examples. Always avoid excessive sun exposure and sunburns. This goes for children as well.
· Consider getting a Vitamin D level blood test and make sure your
level is at least 50 ng/ml.
· Take a Vitamin D supplement of 1000 IU a day if levels are low
and sunshine exposure is inadequate.
· Stay up to date on latest recommendations as more knowledge