Vitamin D – the hot anti-ageing nutrient for 2009


Vitamin D, one of the cheapest supplements on the market, is effective against most of the diseases of ageing, say experts.

But most men and women, do not have adequate levels to protect their immune system, according to several studies.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluable vitamin, which is sythesized by the skin from sunlight and also from dietary sources including diary foods such as milk, cheese and butter, oily fish and offal.

But 90% of the amount required by humans is synthesized from the sun – so if you live in the Northern Hemisphere you will likely be Vitamin D deficient, especially in winter.

Low levels of Vitamin D cause the serious bone disease rickets, which was prevalent in the 19th century.

According to the UK’s Health Supplements Information Service 71% of men and 78% of women are below the recommended daily average.

Today various studies have shown that men with low levels of Vitamin D suffer 2.42 times more heart attacks. There is good reason to believe that vitamin D protects the arterial system from fat and plaque build up which leads to ablocked arteries and atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

It also helps preven common forms of cancer – again, according to various studies, vitamin D deficient women have a 253% increased risk of colon cancer; women with the lowest levels were at at 222% increased risk of breast cancer and men with higher levels have a 52% reduced incidence of prostate cancer; low levels of vitamin D are predictive of fatal strokes. It also regulates blood pressure and immune function and cancer.

Dr John Jacob Cannel MD founder of the non-profit Vitamin D Counsel in the US says:”Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects and peridontal disease.

“This does not mean that vitamin D deficiency is the only cause of these diseases, or that you will not get them if you take vitamin D. What it does mean is that Vitamin D, and the many ways ia affects a person’s health, can no longer be overlooked by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health.”

Vitamin D seems to reduce the risk of almost every killer disease of ageing. In fact, a recent study shows that humans with low Vitamin D status are twice as likely to die over a seven year period.

Doctors are not trained to recognise vitamin D deficiency until rickets develop in children or osteomalacia (softening of the bones) developes in adults. Clinical vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed when blood levels of a vitamin D metabolite (25-hydroxyvitamin D) drop below

According to the world’s foremost experts, however, optimal levels of vitamin D are between 30 and 50 and higher. Those with blood levels below 30ng/ml are considered to have insufficient vitamin D.


Are you getting enough Vitamin D?


As a lack of vitamin D is linked to various diseases including the return of rickets, cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis and diabetes.

Since it is produced in the skin on exposure to sunlight, those living in Scotland and the North of England are more likely to suffer deficiency.

Experts recommend between five and 25 micrograms per day, however, 90 per cent of adults in the UK make less than three.

The situation is worst for those north of Birmingham where the sun is too weak in winter for the vitamin to be produced.

A recent report in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that people with higher levels were more likely to survive colon, breast and lung cancer. This follows last year’s University of San Diego review of 40 years of research, which revealed that a daily dose could halve the risk of breast and bowel cancer.

Other claims are that it reduces the risk of heart disease (a study of 10,000 women in California found that those who took supplements had a 31 per cent lower risk of dying from it), diabetes (in a Finnish study of 12,000 children, it cut their chance of developing Type A diabetes by 80 per cent), even colds and flu (New Yorkers who took vitamin D had flu 70 per cent less often).

Yet despite this increasingly compelling evidence, too many of us are not getting enough. The result: a resurgence in rickets, which stunts growth and deforms the skeleton, causing bowed legs.

Vitamin D Fact File

• 90 per cent of the body’s supply of vitamin D is generated by reaction to sunlight on the skin.

• Vitamin D is found in oily fish like sardines, salmon, mackerel and tuna, cod liver oil, and in milk, cheese, eggs and liver.

• “Healthy Start” supplements for children up to the age of four are given free to those on benefits but can also be bought for £1.70 at pharmacies or health clinics.

• The first mention of rickets is credited to Daniel Whistler, an English doctor who wrote a paper in 1645 on the subject.

• Vitamin D was named in 1922 by the American biochemist Elmer McCollum, who performed experiments to find the nutrients within cod liver oil. It was so called because it was the fourth substance he identified.

• One in 100 children from ethnic minorities in this country is thought to be deficient in vitamin D; darker skin requires more sun to produce the vitamin.

• In 2003 a New York couple were convicted of endangering the life of their 15-month-old baby after subjecting her to a strict vegan diet which left her suffering from rickets. Silva and Joseph Swinton were sentenced to six and five years in jail.

• The classic signs of rickets are bow legs caused by softening of the bones; if not detected early surgery is needed to correct it.

• Most people can make enough vitamin D in the summer to last them through the winter