13 Nov Vitamin D Deficiency: A Link to Chronic Disease?
by Dr. Damon Daniels
A link is defined as a relationship between two things or situations, especially where one thing affects the other. A growing body of research suggests that Vitamin D may play a role in influencing various chronic diseases, inflammatory conditions and maybe even certain cancers. What is more alarming is the fact that many Americans have vitamin D deficiency and don’t even know it. In fact three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine vitamin” whose deficits are increasingly blamed for everything from cancer and heart disease to diabetes, according to new research. The rate of Vitamin D deficiency is higher among African – Americans because of there darker skin tone which affects conversion of this vitamin in the skin. According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the US are deficient. This number goes up to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans.
The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people.Vitamin D deficiency — when the level of vitamin D in your body is too low — can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or mis-shapen. Vitamin D also appears to play a role in insulin production and immune function — and how this relates to chronic disease prevention and cancer — but this is still being investigated. Although the amount of vitamin D adults get from their diets is often less than what’s recommended, exposure to sunlight can make up for the difference. For most adults, vitamin D deficiency is not a concern. However, some groups — particularly people who are obese, who have dark skin and who are older than age 65 — may have lower levels of vitamin D due to their diets, little sun exposure or other factors.
There are 6 common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
- Having dark skin.
- Being elderly.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Not eating much fish or dairy.
- Living far from the equator where there is little sun year-round.
- Staying indoors.
Because vitamin D is such an integral part of your immune system health, some of the first symptoms of low vitamin D levels are overall malaise. The most common symptoms of low vitamin D are:
- Getting sick easily or often Poor wound healing
- Fatigue Hair loss
- Chronic pain (often in your bones) Weakness
Vitamin D Deficiency and Chronic Disease
Cancer and Vitamin D deficiency
As previously mentioned it appears that Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to various diseases. For example, studies have demonstrated that low level of vitamin D is related to a variety of malignant tumors, including breast, prostate and colon cancer.Several population studies indicate that levels below 20 ng/ml are associated with a 30 to 50% increased risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer, along with higher death rate from these cancers
Dementia and Vitamin D Deficiency
A study published in August 2014 in the journal Neurology found that moderate and severe vitamin D deficiency in older adults was associated with a doubled risk for some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia involves a decline in thinking, behavior, and memory that negatively affects daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for as many as 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Prostate Cancer and Low Vitamin D
A study published in May 2014 in the journal Clinical Cancer Research found a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and aggressive prostate cancer in European-American and African-American men. Though these findings were also observational — that is, the study didn’t prove low vitamin D leads to prostate cancer — you may help reduce your potential risk of the disease by ensuring you get adequate vitamin D.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Heart Disease
Numerous studies have shown an association between low vitamin D blood levels and heart disease and related complications, according to a review published in January 2014 in Circulation Research, but science has not clearly established if supplementation can reduce these risks. The review cites research that points to vitamin D levels as a potential culprit for health problems related to heart disease such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke.
The bottom line is that more research suggests that Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in a variety of disease. I recommend that you have your Vitamin D level checked and if it is below 30 to consider taking Vitamin D. You can ask your doctor about the correct dose but most people need about 1000 IU to 5000 IU daily.