Vitamin D, the "sunshine" vitamin, does a lot more than help keep bones strong — scientists are finding that it impacts all aspects of our health.
Vitamin D can be obtained from exposure to sunlight, vitamin supplements (vitamin D-3 is recommended by many experts), and foods such as salmon and tuna.
Recent studies show that having high levels of vitamin D in our blood can help protect against many diseases, while low levels are linked with several disorders.
Here are 12 critically important ways vitamin D can help protect your health:1. Colon cancer.
A study by cancer prevention specialists at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California found that high amounts of vitamin D could slash colorectal cancer rates by two-thirds. A European study found that high levels of vitamin D cut the odds of colon cancer by almost 40 percent.2. Breast cancer.
Research using data from two earlier studies found that women with the highest amounts of vitamin D in their blood lowered their risk of breast cancer by 50 percent when compared to women with the lowest levels. A Canadian study found that women who took a vitamin D pill of least 400 international units every day lowered their risk of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.3. Heart disease.
A British study has found that middle-aged and elderly people with high levels of vitamin D reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 33 percent. Utah scientists found that patients who raised their blood levels of vitamin D after being diagnosed as deficient lowered their risk of having a heart attack by 33 percent, their risk of heart failure by 20 percent, and their risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent. 4. Brain health.
A European study of men between the ages of 40 and 79 found that high levels of vitamin D were associated with high scores on memory tests.5. Diabetes.
Researchers at Warwick Medical School found that adults with the highest blood levels of vitamin D lowered their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 55 percent.6. Asthma.
Asthmatics who have high levels of vitamin D have better lung function and respond to treatment better than those who have low levels, according to researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver.7. Bone health.
Vitamin D and calcium reduce the risk of hip fractures in the elderly. Studies show that people who are deficient in vitamin D absorb 65 percent less calcium than those with normal levels. One recent study from the United Kingdom found that 95 percent of patients with hip fractures were deficient in vitamin D, and having adequate levels could reduce hip fractures by up to 50 percent.8. Depression.
University of Toronto researchers found that people who suffer from depression, especially those with seasonal affective disorder, improved as the levels of vitamin D in the blood rose. Researchers in Norway found that high doses of vitamin D helped relieve the symptoms of depression.9. Multiple sclerosis.
Australian scientists discovered that people who live in the state furthest from the equator — and get less sunlight — are seven times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than those who live in the sunniest state. 10. Colds and flu.
Scientists at the University of Colorado found that people with the lowest amounts of vitamin D in their blood had the highest incidence of colds and flu.11. Rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, found that women with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood lowered their chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 30 percent. 12. Crohn's Disease.
Vitamin D switches on genes responsible for fighting Crohn's disease (a chronic inflammatory disease primarily affecting the small and large intestine), according to Canadian researchers. "Our data suggests that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn's disease," Dr. John White, endocrinologist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, Canada, said in a statement.
The National Institute of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements recommends 200 IU of vitamin D each day for adults under the age of 50. Adults 50-70 should get 400 IU daily and adults ages 71 and above should have an intake of 600 IU each day.