Could This Simple Habit Actually Reduce Cancer and Diabetes by 50%?
Posted By Dr. Mercola | September 06 2010
Vitamin D influences more than 200 genes. This includes genes related to cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D affects your DNA through the vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome.
“Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known risk factor for rickets, and some evidence suggests it may increase susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, as well as certain cancers and even dementia.”
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Reuter’s information is actually a bit misleading as other scientists have identified a total of nearly 3,000 genes that are upregulated by vitamin D. The particular study referenced above identified 200 genes affected, but it’s not clear if that is in addition to the ones already identified, or if they simply confirmed many of the ones found by others.
One thing’s for sure: Vitamin D is one of the major keys for disease prevention and for optimal health.
The Astonishing Power of Vitamin D to Transform Your Health
In recent years vitamin D has emerged as a star of the “vitamin” world. For example, there are currently over 800 studies showing vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer. Optimizing your vitamin D levels can literally cut your risk of several cancers by 50 percent!
Further, middle aged and elderly people with high levels of vitamin D could reduce their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes by 43 percent.
How Does Vitamin D Do What it Does?
Vitamin D is actually a “prohormone,” which your body produces from cholesterol. Because it is a prohormone, vitamin D influences your entire body -- receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.
So what modern science has now realized is that vitamin D does more than just aid in the absorption of calcium and bone formation, it is also involved in multiple repair and maintenance functions, touches thousands of different genes, regulates your immune system, and much, much more.
Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections, as well as chronic inflammation. It produces over 200 anti microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.
This is one of the explanations for why it’s so effective against colds and influenza.
In addition, since vitamin D also modulates (balances) your immune response, it can prevent an overreaction in the form of inflammation, which can lead to a variety of autoimmune disorders, such as Crohn’s disease for example.
When you consider the fact that you only have about 25,000 genes in your body, and vitamin D has been shown to influence nearly 3,000 of them, the bigger picture of its true impact on your health can be easily understood.
It may, in fact, have literally thousands of health benefits!
However, it’s also very clear that unless you have taken specific measures to address it, the odds are overwhelming that you are deficient in this important nutrient.
Are You Vitamin D Deficient?
Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and is contributing to many chronic debilitating diseases. There are a few reasons for this trend.
First, most people spend far too much time indoors during daytime hours. You may also have also been seriously misled by “expert’” recommendations to avoid all sun exposure, and to slather yourself with sunscreen whenever you do go outside. Please understand that sunscreen will virtually eliminate your body’s ability to produce any vitamin D because it blocks the UVB radiation that causes your skin to produce it naturally.
As a result, in the United States the late winter average vitamin D is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a very serious deficiency state.
In fact, new studies show that about 85 percent of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. This is primarily related to the recent appreciation that your levels of vitamin D should be MUCH higher than previously thought.
Consider the following vitamin D facts:
- Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation, such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India, who always wear sun protection, or who limit their outdoor activities.
- African Americans and other dark-skinned people and those living in northern latitudes make significantly less vitamin D than other groups.
- 60 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes have vitamin D deficiency.
- Studies showed very low levels of vitamin D among children, the elderly, and women.
- One nationwide study of women revealed that almost half of the African American women of childbearing age might be vitamin-D deficient.
Winter, when sun exposure is at its lowest, is the time of year when you need to be most concerned about the amount of vitamin D you are receiving, as your vitamin D levels can drop by up to 50 percent in the winter.
Of course, if you have the tendency to spend the summer months indoors, out of the sun, or you only go outside with sunscreen on, then you would need to be concerned during the summer months as well.
The Many Health Benefits of Vitamin D
It’s absolutely tragic that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of deterring people from the sun -- your optimal source for natural vitamin D.
Their widely dispersed message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during both work and leisure time, has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency seen today -- which in turn is fueling an astonishingly diverse array of common chronic diseases, including:
|Diabetes 1 and 2||Multiple Sclerosis||Crohn’s disease|
|Cold & Flu||Inflammatory Bowel Disease||Tuberculosis|
|Septicemia||Signs of aging||Dementia|
|Eczema & Psoriasis||Insomnia||Hearing loss|
|Muscle pain||Cavities||Periodontal disease|
|Osteoporosis||Macular degeneration||Reduced C-section risk|
Vitamin D Against Cancer
A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.
Other studies showed that you can decrease your risk of cancer by more than half simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels with sun exposure.
- Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
- Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
- Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
- Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous
When is the Best Time to Go Out in the Sun, and for How Long?
The optimal time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is as near to solar noon as possible. That would be between roughly 10:00am and 2:00pm.
During this time you need the shortest exposure time to produce vitamin D because UVB rays are most intense at this time. Plus, when the sun goes down toward the horizon, the UVB is filtered out much more than the dangerous UVA.
When you’re out in the sun, be very careful about the length of your exposure. You only need enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. This may only be a few minutes for some. Exposures any longer than this will not produce any more vitamin D but will accelerate photo aging and increase your risk for non-melanoma skin cancers like basal and squamous cell cancers.
Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D and any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your skin.
Most people with fair skin will produce the maximum amount of vitamin D in just 10-20 minutes, or, again, when your skin starts turning the lightest shade of pink. Some will need less, others more. The darker your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D production. African-Americans need perhaps 20 percent more sun exposure time than whites.
And contrary to popular opinion, your body simply cannot make adequate vitamin D from the sun unless you have more skin area exposed than just your face and hands. In fact, at least 40 percent of your body should be uncovered to optimize your vitamin D production.
Another option is to use a safe tanning bed, again paying attention to not getting burned.
New Way to Protect Against Sunburn
A few months ago I found out that a carotenoid extracted from algae called astaxanthin can be extremely useful in preventing and eliminating sunburn. Interestingly, this is the antioxidant in krill that prevents it from being damaged.
What current research is showing is that if you are on 2 mg of astaxanthin for a month, it becomes very difficult to get sunburned.
Additionally, it also appears to prevent the development of the most common form or blindness, age-related macular degeneration, as well as cataracts, and most likely protects you from EMF when you are flying or being exposed to diagnostic X-rays.
The key though is that it takes weeks to build up in your tissues, so you can’t just swallow a few pills prior to your exposure and expect to receive any benefit. Astaxanthin is also fat soluble and needs to be taken with some fat or you simply won’t absorb it.
Vitamin D Supplements: How Much Should You Take?
It is wise to consider oral vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter months, or year-round if you haven’t time or sufficient access to the sun or a safe tanning bed.
However, the Reuter’s article above is years behind the research on their recommended dosage of 1,000 IU’s a day
It’s true, there are no definitive studies on the optimal daily dose of vitamin D, but based on studies on healthy indigenous peoples, many vitamin D experts now agree that most adults, including pregnant women, require about 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily for optimal health – or 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight, which is certainly well above the current RDA.
That said, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone’s needs.
The ONLY way to determine how much you might need is by testing your blood level of vitamin D.
This is in fact a very important aspect of optimizing your vitamin D levels that you should not skip over.
Because while overdosing on vitamin D from sun exposure is highly unlikely as your body has a built-in “failsafe” feedback loop, which will tend to shut down production when your levels are healthy, it IS possible to overdose when taking supplements.
So you need to be careful when using oral vitamin D therapy and make certain you have your blood levels checked. Many of you may choose to ignore this warning, but I am telling you in no uncertain terms that while vitamin D has enormous potential for improving your health, it has significant potential to worsen it, if you use it improperly.
What Vitamin D Level do You Need to Stay Healthy?
The OPTIMAL value of vitamin D that you’re looking for has recently been raised to 50-70 ng/ml, with even higher recommended levels required for more serious disease prevention, as shown in the chart below. The only caution is to use Lab Corp, as tests done at Quest are consistently falsely elevated due to a different assay.
I hope you can see now some of the many benefits of vitamin D, and why it is so critical to make sure you and your family maintain healthy levels at all times.
Please take this opportunity to use one -- or more -- of the options I’ve suggested for getting your daily dose of vitamin D. Optimal vitamin D, however you get it, can literally make the difference between a lifetime of chronic disease and one of vibrant health and vitality.
For even more information about this essential nutrient, please peruse the links below.
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