By Dr. Mercola
This is a really important study as it is one of the first large trials that examined the relationship of vitamin D supplementation on that of overall death rate.
Previous studies have correlated vitamin D levels but most of that was related to vitamin D levels raised naturally through sun exposure.
Numerous studies and meta-analyses have suggested that vitamin D deficiency has a negative association with survival; however, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on overall mortality has not been studied.
This is a crucially important study of over 10,000 people over a five-year period whose average age was that of most that read this newsletter (58).
This study proves very clearly that oral vitamin D works to radically decrease your risk of dying.
Are You Going to Take Advantage of this Landmark Study?
I have a simple question to ask you, the answer to which is essential for optimizing your health and even reducing your risk of premature death by 50 percent:
What are your vitamin D levels?
If you cannot answer this question, you may be speeding down the health equivalent of the Autobahn with no seatbelt, and it's only a matter of time before it catches up to you.
With a simple blood test, and similarly simple strategies to make sure your levels reach the optimal range, you can put on your figurative seatbelt -- and drastically improve your overall health.
Addressing Your Vitamin D Deficiency May Cut Your Risk of Dying in Half
Taking vitamin D supplements in order to overcome a deficiency in the vitamin could cut your risk of dying by more than half, so found a recent analysis of more than 10,000 patients. Not only was vitamin D deficiency associated with several cardiovascular-related diseases, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and diabetes, but it was also a strong independent predictor of all-cause death.
Researchers found that patients with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, and diseased heart muscle -- and were three times more likely to die from any cause compared to those with normal levels.
Now it's important to realize that more than 70 percent of the study participants were deficient in vitamin D, and this was based on a "normal" vitamin D level of ≥30 ng/ml.
However, the latest research suggests that any level below 50 ng/ml is actually a deficiency state, which means the number of vitamin-d deficient participants was actually much higher, most likely well over 90-95% of the patients. But it is quite extraordinary to see their improvement even at the lower levels they reported.
Because your body is designed to produce vitamin D from regular exposure of your skin to the sun, unless you live in a warm, sunny climate where you frequently spend time outdoors with large portions of your skin exposed, there's a very high chance you, too, are deficient.
Again, in the study those who corrected their deficiencies saw their risk of death drop by more than half … which should give you an idea of just how crucial this vitamin is for your overall health.
As researchers noted:
"In conclusion, vitamin D deficiency was associated with a significant risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced survival. Vitamin D supplementation was significantly associated with better survival, specifically in patients with documented deficiency."
Vitamin D Helps Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease, Depression and Much More
In the past, vitamin D was primarily regarded as an important nutrient for bone health, and it was conventionally thought that a person had enough vitamin D as long as they didn't have an obvious bone disease like rickets or osteomalacia.
But new research shows how wrong this assumption was, as higher levels of vitamin D are necessary to provide protection from more serious chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, infections, multiple sclerosis and more.
Vitamin D receptors are present in virtually every tissue and cell in your body, and the research is very impressive supporting its role in preventing:
Sunlight or a Tanning Bed are Your Best Choices for Optimizing Vitamin D
Many are interested in the guidelines for vitamin D supplementation, but it's important to realize that the IDEAL way to optimize your vitamin D levels is not by taking a pill, but rather allowing your body to do what it was designed to do—create vitamin D from sun exposure. This study however, certainly provides some powerful support for the value of oral vitamin D.
However, there are a number of reasons that sunlight is better:
- It is more natural. Our ancestors optimized their vitamin D levels by sun exposure, not by swallowing it in foods. Although vitamin D is in some animal foods it is in relatively low quantities and to my knowledge there are no known ancestral populations that thrived on oral vitamin D sources.
- When you expose your skin to the sun, your skin also synthesizes high amounts of cholesterol sulfate, which is very important for cardiovascular health. In fact, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, believes that high LDL and associated heart disease may in fact be a symptom of cholesterol sulfate deficiency. Sulfur deficiency, in fact, also promotes obesity and related health problems like diabetes
- You cannot overdose when getting your vitamin D from sun exposure, as your body has the ability to self-regulate production and only make what it needs
How Much Sun Exposure do You Need?
To optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun, and you need to do it for more than a few minutes. And, contrary to popular belief, the best time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is actually as near to solar noon as possible. 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.
Just be cautious about the length of your exposure. You only need enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D due to its self-regulating mechanism. Any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your skin.
Unfortunately, studies have shown only about 30 percent of Americans' circulating vitamin D is the product of sunlight exposure.
This is a byproduct of public health agencies' misguided advice to stay out of the sun to avoid cancer (when in fact vitamin D from sun exposure will actually help prevent it). If you can't get out in the sun, a safe tanning bed is the next best option. Safe tanning beds have electronic ballasts rather than magnetic ballasts, which help you avoid unnecessary exposure to health-harming EMF fields. They also have less of the dangerous UVA than sunlight, while unsafe ones have more UVA than sunlight.
The Latest Vitamin D Supplementation Guidelines
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If neither sun exposure nor safe tanning beds are feasible options, then you should take an oral vitamin D3 supplement if your levels are low. It will definitely be better than no vitamin D at all.
There is no one-size-fits-all dosage level at which "magic" happens, but based on the most recent research by GrassrootsHealth—an organization that has greatly contributed to the current knowledge on vitamin D through their D* Action Study—it appears as though most adults need about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D a day in order to get their serum levels above 40 ng/ml. This is significantly higher than previously recommended!
For children, many experts agree they need about 35 IU's of vitamin D per pound of body weight.
At the time GrassrootsHealth performed the studies that resulted in this increased dosage recommendation, the optimal serum level was believed to be between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Since then, the optimal vitamin D level has been raised to 50-70 ng/ml, and when treating cancer or heart disease, as high as 70-100 ng/ml, as illustrated in the chart below.
What this means is that even if you do not regularly monitor your vitamin D levels (which you should), your risk of overdosing is going to be fairly slim, even if you take as much as 8,000 IU's a day. However, the only way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested regularly, and adjust your dosage to maintain that optimal zone.
Remember, unless you get a deep dark tan, which is a pretty good indicator that your vitamin D levels are where they need to be, it is wise to get your blood levels checked -- that is the only way to know for certain you have reached therapeutic levels.
Make Sure You Get the Correct Vitamin D Test
Knowing your vitamin D level can be a life-altering piece of information, which is why it's so important to make sure your results are accurate.
There are two vitamin D tests -- 1,25(OH)D and 25(OH)D -- but 25(OH)D is the better marker of overall D status. It is this marker that is most strongly associated with overall health, and it is the one you should ask your physician for.
Your physician can order this blood test for you, or, alternatively, you can have your vitamin D levels tested right in your own home by joining the GrassrootsHealth D* Action Study. D*Action is a worldwide public health campaign which aims to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic through focusing on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth.
When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $60.00 fee + $5.00 shipping each 6 months for your sponsorship of the 5-year project, which includes a complete new test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress.
You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey." To join now, please follow this link to the sign up form.
How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health
Additionally, a robust and growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention. Vitamin D affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome. Scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D levels, and vitamin D receptors have been found throughout the human body.
Is it any wonder then that no matter what disease or condition is investigated, vitamin D appears to play a crucial role? This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.
In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. This was an ongoing campaign during the month of February, and will become an annual event.
To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)
As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."