Vitamin D, in healthy levels, has recently been reported as a factor in reducing the risk of cancer. Researchers in the 1980s first noticed that people living in higher latitudes with less sunlight had lower levels of vitamin D. They also discovered that these people had higher incidences of colon, breast, bladder, and lung cancer. More recently a study conducted at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine revealed that patients with vitamin D levels of 40 ng/ml or more had a whopping 67 percent lower risk of cancer than patients with levels of 20 ng/ml or less.
But vitamin D is even more important than that. The Johns Hopkins Heart & Vascular Institute website states that a growing number of studies point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, and strokes.
The role of vitamin D in brain function remains unclear but a 2008 study out of Norway found that people with a low level of vitamin D had more symptoms of depression. This research also revealed that taking vitamin D improved the symptoms of depression. Perhaps that’s because Vitamin D receptors are found in the areas of the brain that are linked to the development of depression. Additionally, a 2014 study published in Neurology revealed that people with low blood levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia than those with normal vitamin D levels.
Scientists from the University of Copenhagen reported in 2010 that Vitamin D is essential to our immune system. The body’s T cells, or killer cells, are not able to react and fight off infections without sufficient vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is also vital to calcium absorption and bone metabolism since a deficiency is associated with low bone mass and osteoporosis. Several years ago, German researchers found that vitamin-D deficiency is associated with a loss of bone quality as well as bone density, due to changes in the way bone-building cells work. This can lead to a higher risk of bone fractures, particularly as we age.
All of this research points to the importance of vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D is unique in that it is a vitamin but also a hormone that the body produces itself after sufficient exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in small amounts in some foods. With vitamin D benefiting multiple systems of the body, it’s important that we maintain healthy levels.