Vitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight.  It also occurs naturally in a few foods,  including some mushrooms, green vegetables, fish, fish oils, and egg yolks --- and in fortified dairy and food products. 

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and the immune system.

Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:

  • Increased risk of death from Cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Sever asthma in children
  • Cancer

To get the most out of your bone boosting diet, you'll want to do regular weight bearing exercise. This includes any activity that uses the weight of your body or outside weights to stress the bones and muscles. The result is that body  lays down more bone material, and your bones become more denser. Brisks walks, dancing, tennis, and yoga are good have all been shown to benefit your bones.

In 2009, German scientists investigated the effect of vitamin D (calcitrol-the active form of vitamin D) levels on mortality in a cohort of 510 patients with serious, life-threatening illnesses: 67% with heart failure (two-thirds in end stage), 64.3% with hypertension, 33.7% with coronary heart disease, 20.2% with diabetes, and 17.3 % with renal failure.

Many of these patients had multiple co-morbidities (diseases or conditions that coexist with a primary disease but they also stand on their own as specific diseases).  The scientists assessed vitamin D (Calcitrol) status at the beginning of the study, and assigned the patients to the following quintiles: <16.7 ng/L, 16.7-25.2 ng/L, 25.3-33.2 ng/L, 33.3-43.4 ng/L, and >43.4 ng/L.

No supplementation was provided, although the patients were administered standard medications, and were followed for one year.

Broken down by quintiles, the probability of survival was: 66.7% in the lowest quintile, 82.5% in the second quintile, 86.7 % in the third quintile, 88.8% in the fourth quintile, and 96.1% in the highest quintile.

These survival improvement percent with calcitrol concentrations >58.8 ng/L died during follow-up.

More recently, in 2013, scientists from John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, examined 10,170 participants using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) for all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality for each 10-unit increase in serum 250HD. The authors concluded that there is "an inverse association between 250HD and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in healthy adults with serum 250HD levels of <21 ng/ml." Said differently, 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels below 21 ng/ml in this study increased the risk of dropping dead!

1. Zitterman A, Schleithoff SS, Frisch S, et al. Circulating calcitrol concentrations and total mortality. Clin Chem. 2009 Jun; 55(6): 1163-70.

Published reports over the past 10 years indicate that higher vitamin D levels may help protect against virtually all degenerative diseases.

A study published by PLOS medicine identified single nucleotide polymorphisms that were strongly associated with lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

The researchers studied the odds of MS on those with genetically lower vitamin D levels from the International Multiple Sclerosis Consortium study.  Considered the largest genetic association study to date for MS, it included 14,498 subjects with MS and 24,091 healthy controls. The authors concluded that genetically lowered vitamin D levels were strongly associated with an increase risk for MS. 2

2. Mokry LE, Ross S, Admad OS, et al. Vitamin D and risk of multiple sclerosis: a mendelian randomization study. PLoS Med. 2015;12 (8):e1001866.

The new data on Vitamin D heavily reinforces the statistics and research on vitamin D for MS.  Trials show that more than 90% of people with MS have deficient vitamin D. Deficient is defined at a level below 20 ng/L.

Dr. Hui Wang, MD, PhD, Professor of the Institute for Nutritional Sciences at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai reviewed studies on Vitamin D Levels in 17,332 cancer patients.  His teams analysis demonstrated that vitamin D levels are linked to better outcomes in cancer. The risks of dying decreased from between 37% to 52%. (JCEM. 2014 April 29.)

References: Pub Med, Web MD, MedlinePlus.