Vitamin D

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Vitamin D is an important component of the human diet and maintaining overall health. It is unique from other vitamins in that “your body can make its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight,” and it cannot work to make other vitamins, such as Vitamin C or Vitamin K. A brief summary of some of the ways in which Vitamin D assists the body in ways that help to maintain overall health include: 

  • Immune system, which helps you to fight infection

  • Muscle function

  • Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation

  • Respiratory system, for healthy lungs and airways

  • Brain development

  • Anti-cancer effects

Further, Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium, which then “helps build bones and keep bones strong and healthy.”[1] Vitamin D is also uniquely important in that it works to “block the release of parathyroid hormone. This hormone reabsorbs bone tissue, which makes bones thin and brittle.”1As such, Vitamin D is crucial for carrying out many different functions throughout the body, not just in one particular aspect.However, Vitamin D has also been studied in relation to cancer, and the results are impactful.

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

Several studies have found that Vitamin D can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. For example, a: 

“study published in 2005 examined the relationship of plasma vitamin D metabolites to breast cancer risk in a cohort of women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. Blood samples were collected from study participants from 1989 to 1990 and analyzed for the vitamin D metabolites 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D. The study participants were followed until 1996. The researchers then compared blood samples from women who developed breast cancer with samples from cancer-free control subjects. High levels of both vitamin D metabolites were associated with a non-significantly lower risk of breast cancer. For both metabolites, the association was stronger in women aged 60 and older.” [2]

Further, “mammographic density is considered a strong risk factor for breast cancer. Dietary intake of vitamin D and calcium was assessed in a group of women, aged 40-60, who had screening mammograms. Women who had a combined daily intake of 100 IU or more of vitamin D combined with 750 mg or more of calcium demonstrated decreased breast density compared to women with lower intakes of the two nutrients. This suggests that adequate consumption of vitamin D and calcium may reduce breast cancer risk by influencing breast tissue architecture.”2While research is still developing, the above cited sources provide good reason for including Vitamin D in our diet and making sure we are receiving enough of it on a regular basis.

Where to find Vitamin D

While Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ the sun is not an adequate source of Vitamin D alone. This partially has to do with time and geography, as"the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May, especially for those living north of Atlanta," says Althea Zanecosky, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.[3] Therefore, it is important to find others ways to obtain ample amounts of Vitamin D. You can incorporate Vitamin D into your diet through many sources, some of which are natural and others that are fortified. Some of the natural sources of Vitamin D include:

  •  Wild-caught fish

  • Beef or calf liver

  • Egg yolks

  • Canned fish

  • Shiitake mushrooms

Vitamin D can also be obtained through fortified sources; be sure to check the labels to see how much Vitamin D is found in each product, as it may vary.

Fortified sources of Vitamin D include:

  • Milk (whole, nonfat, or reduced fat)

  • Yogurt

  • Almond milk

  • Orange juice

  • Fortified tofu

  • Oatmeal

  • Cheese

  • Margarine

As a note, always be sure to consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or health routine.

For More Information 

Vitamin D is a crucial component of our overall health; it helps to assist the body in numerous functions, including its ability to absorb calcium and carry out brain functions. While you may think you’re receiving adequate amounts of Vitamin D through your time spent outdoors, that is most likely not the case, especially if you wear proper sunscreen. Therefore, it is important to make sure you receive this special vitamin through other avenues, such as through your diet. To further inquire about incorporating Vitamin D into your diet and lifestyle, consult your physician. You can also contact our medical team here; we are happy to assist you!

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[1]“The Role of Vitamin D in Your Health.” Cleveland Clinic.

[2]Martin, Russell. “Cancer Prevention and Other New Uses.” Life Extension Magazine. 2006.

[3]Patz, Aviva. “17 Surprising Ways to Get More Vitamin D.” Prevention. 2014.

CMN Hospital