I mentioned yesterday that there are Vitamin D receptors everywhere in our bodies, and that includes the brain. This is where, through the presence of Vitamin D, serotonin is released. Serotonin makes you happy, therefore the sun makes you happy! What some of the most recent research into Vitamin D has uncovered is that "[Vitamin D] can reduce the risks of heart attacks by as much as 50%; decrease the risks of cancers of the breast, colon and prostate by a similar amount; reduce infectious diseases, including influenza, by as much as 90%; combat both type-1 and type-2 diabetes; diminish the risk of dementia and associated neurological dysfunctions; and dramatically impede the incidence of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases."*
When it comes to cancer, there is now enough research linking Vitamin D, sunlight and cancer, to include Vitamin D not only in prevention but also in treatment protocols. A recent study found that post-menopausal women who took 1,100 IU per day of Vitamin D and 1,500 mg per day of calcium lowered their risk of dying from ANY cancer by over 66%! Another study found the risk of breast cancer spreading was 94% higher for those women who were Vitamin D deficient when they were diagnosed. As mentioned in previous posts, Vitamin D is stored and can be activated anywhere, anytime. When the vitamin becomes active it takes part in two very important anticancer processes. It induces apoptosis, which is cell-suicide (that's a good thing, all cells are supposed to die, cancer cells don't and need to be reminded) and it inhibits new blood vessels from forming that would feed cancerous growths.
There also is a strong correlation between latitude and heart attacks, the further away from the equator you live, the higher your risk of heart attack. Also, in Northern Latitudes heart attacks surge by 53% in the winter when sunlight and Vitamin D levels are at the lowest. In the tropics, however, the rate of heart attacks is constant throughout the year. Vitamin D reduces blood pressure, is an anti-inflammatory agent and it's ability to stimulate your cardiovascular function is as good as aerobic exercise!
In terms of immune support it is becoming clear now that Vitamin D is vital. Many researchers are now saying that seasonal infections such as colds and influenza have much less to do with higher seasonal viral activity, but are the cause of decreased levels of Vitamin D! In another recent study supplementation with 2,000 IU per day of Vitamin D, compared with the formerly recommended dose of 400 IU per day, resulted in a 90% reduction of upper respiratory tract infections!
Alright, I think I have thrown around enough stats for today. Let's talk about how much Vitamin D you should take. I hope that by now you are sufficiently convinced that both sunlight and Vitamin D supplementation is absolutely critical! In fact my fiancée Jenna recently decided, after reading all of this new information about Vitamin D, to call it Vitamin Duh! because knowing all of this you'd be silly not to take it!
I'd like to clarify to you at this point that pretty much all Daily Recommended Intake values for vitamins and minerals are based on preventing acute deficiency conditions and NOT on providing optimal health. Health Canada increased their recommendations for Vitamin D, just last year, from 200 IU per day to 600 IU per day and that's really still just barely enough to prevent rickets! To put these recommendations into perspective for you, consider this: Full body exposure to strong sunlight (when the sun is high in the sky) for 15 to 30 minutes, enough to make the skin turn a little pink (but not burn!) will provide the body with 15,000 - 20,000 IU of Vitamin D. The following is a chart that can provide you with some guidance in terms of the about to take. Following my Naturopath's recommendations I take 10,000 IU per day. Keep in mind that the best source of Vitamin D is the sun! But anyone living outside of the tropics must supplement with this important nutrient!
*Lyle MacWilliam, MSc, FP - Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements.