Low Vitamin D Levels Can Shorten Your Lifespan
Low Vitamin D Level Raises Your Mortality Rate, while optimizing your vitamin D stores can go a long way toward preventing disease and living a longer, healthier life. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year.
Compelling evidence actually suggests optimizing your vitamin D can reduce your risk of death from any cause.17 At this point, the known health benefits of vitamin D number in the hundreds, if not thousands, in part due to the fact that it influences about 10 percent of all your genes. Some of the key benefits include protection against:
Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to longtime vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, research has shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of heart attack by 50 percent. If you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack is upwards of 100 percent.
Cancer. Vitamin D has a number of specific anticancer effects, including the promotion of cancer cell death, known as apoptosis, and the inhibition of angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor). There are well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer.
One recent meta-analysis concluded that vitamin D helps protect against bladder cancer. In all, having a high serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a 25 percent reduction in relative risk of bladder cancer. Similarly, a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that a vitamin D level of more than 33 ng/mL was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis18 (MS) and inflammatory bowel disease.
Lung disease. In those who are deficient, vitamin D supplementation may reduce flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms by more than 40 percent.19 Other research20 suggests vitamin D may protect against some of the adverse effects of smoking as well.
Infections, including influenza. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. I believe it's far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu.
DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick's studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes. This included improving DNA repair; having a beneficial effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example); boosting the immune system; and many other biological processes.
Brain health (depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease). Vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Vitamin D is therefore important for optimal brain function, mental health, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to one recent study, seniors with low vitamin D levels may double their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study found that people with the highest average intakes of vitamin D had a 77 percent decreased risk for Alzheimer's. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on your brain through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
Sun Exposure Is the Ideal Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Stores. Sensible sun exposure appears to be the best way to optimize your vitamin D level. In fact, I personally have not taken a vitamin D supplement for over five years, yet my levels are in the 70 ng/ml range. If you can’t get enough sunshine, then a tanning bed equipped with an electronic ballast (to avoid potentially harmful EMF fields) would be your next best option.
If your circumstances don’t allow you to access the sun or a tanning bed, then taking a vitamin D supplement is certainly advisable. In this case, be sure to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it, as both are essential for its optimal function. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption.
There are a number of important reasons for these recommendations. For starters, the biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, and without sufficient amounts, calcium will build up in areas such as your arteries and soft tissues. This can cause calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries—a side effect previously thought to be caused by vitamin D toxicity. We now know that inappropriate calcification is actually due more to lack of K2 than simply too much vitamin D.
Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D, as it converts vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work.
As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency is very common, and if you’re lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.