Vitamin D - Elixir of Life

A study published in the March, 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that a jaw-dropping 59 % of the world population is vitamin D deficient with more than 40% of people in the US are extremely Vitamin D deficient. What's more? More than half of pregnant women today do not have sufficient amounts of vitamin D, even with prenatal vitamin supplements leading to deficient infants, a new University of Pittsburgh study shows. Vitamin D deficiency is undoubtedly a major unrecognized problem of this world full of sunshine. The current lifestyle of working indoors has contributed ‘largely’ to the growing number of vitamin D deficiency cases worldwide.

What's becoming increasingly clear from all the new research is that vitamin D deficiency may be the most common denominator behind devastating modern degenerative diseases. Vitamin D regulates cells, systems and hormones all around the body. Its deficiency has been linked to autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, insulin resistance,  depression, arthritis, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, periodontal disease, obesity, many different types of cancer (particularly breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers), osteomalacia, osteopenia, osteoporosis, systemic and lupus erythematosus (SLE). The list goes on and on and on.

It is confirmed that vitamin D has more than just skeletal benefits as opposed to what was thought previously. It is a prohormone, vitamin D is a crucial component of proper development, growth and maintenance of the human body. Without it, the body is prone to develop practically every disease in existence, as vitamin D's metabolic product, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol), is responsible for unlocking more than 2,700 binding sites on the human genome. Vitamin D works at the genetic level to lower the incidence of mutations and improve cellular replication. It influences an estimated 10 percent of all the genes in your body. Vitamin D is also a part of a metabolic product called calcitriol that influences some 2,000 genes in the body.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that regulates calcium and phosphate levels in the blood and promotes the growth of healthy bones. But benefits of vitamin D extend way beyond bone health. Vitamin D can prevent practically every disease known to man. Vitamin D not only prevents chronic diseases, but also extends natural lifespan. This makes it a profoundly important factor for maintaining optimal health. Vitamin D links with a gene that increases its activity and produces an enzyme that combats free radical damage by clearing the cell of those DNA-damaging substances. This relieves cell stress and retains healthy cells.
Solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation has been used since ancient times to treat various diseases. This has a scientific background in the fact that a large number of molecules (chromophores) in different layers of the skin interacts with and absorbs UV.

Bone, Muscles & Body Pain
Vitamin D plays a critical role in absorbing calcium from the intestine and its deficiency causes rickets - extremely bowed legs or disturbingly distended pot bellies. 
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to muscle weakness, osteoporosis and bone softening. Vitamin D deficiency has been noted in 69 percent of adult patients with inflammatory joint diseases or connective tissue diseases, 77 percent with soft tissue rheumatism, 62 percent with osteoarthritis, 75 percent with back pain, and 71 percent with osteoporosis.
Among people with hip fractures 98 percent test positive for serious deficiencies in vitamin D. Researchers have also found that sunlight exposure and higher vitamin D levels are both associated with decreased knee cartilage loss in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Children with S-ECC (severe early childhood caries) had significantly lower vitamin D levels than cavity-free children (20 ng/ml versus 25ng/ml) and were twice as likely to have levels below 30 ng/ml.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University points to research in an endocrinology textbook stating that muscle pain and weakness were major symptoms experienced by Arab and Danish-Muslim women, all of whom had very low vitamin D serum levels.
Vitamin D improves performance in athletes when low levels of the vitamin are corrected and suggested that the vitamin could help spur peak athletic performance.  It may also be an effective treatment to preserve muscle strength in older adults.
Individual studies have shown pain to be relieved by treating vitamin D deficiency in as diverse pain syndromes as:
* Chronic Back Pain (VERY common to have vitamin D deficiency)
* Nerve Pain or Neuropathy
* Pain described as 'Bone Pain'
* Musculoskeletal Pain
* 'Inflammatory' Pain such as Irritable Bowel Disease and Crohn's Disease

Eye Sight & Brain Functionality
Researchers from University College London (UCL) in the U.K. made this discovery after reviewing earlier literature on the benefits of vitamin D in reducing and even eliminating the amyloid plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease. The study describes a definitive link between increased vitamin D intake and improved eyesight in the elderly.
Researchers performed blood tests on more than 3,000 European men and discovered that participants with higher levels of vitamin D displayed superior memory function and information processing capabilities than those with lower levels of the sunshine vitamin. Because of the many vitamin D receptors in the brain, it has been discovered that vitamin D plays a very important role in maintaining and achieving a healthy mind. Low vitamin D levels affect depression in the elderly. Maintaining sufficient vitamin D among pregnant women and during childhood was necessary to satisfy the vitamin D receptor in the brain integral for brain development and mental function maintenance in later life.

Many researchers have discovered that regardless of the form of cancer or even the nutritional status of the patient, the one thing most cancer patients have in common is a vitamin D deficiency. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded, “Improving calcium and vitamin D nutritional status substantially reduces all cancer risk in postmenopausal women.”
A study in the International Journal of Cancer found that vitamin D protects cells from oxidative stress. This study used the most biologically active form of the vitamin, vitamin D3 along with nonmalignant human prostate epithelial cells. Metabolism of cells produces free radicals that can damage DNA and contribute to cancer formation and accelerated aging.
Findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, revealed that increased doses of the sunshine vitamin were linked to a 75 percent reduction in overall cancer growth and 50 percent reduction in tumor cases among those already having the disease. Recent research carried out at the University of Copenhagen has revealed that vitamin D activates the immune system by "arming" T cells to fight off infections.

Blood Heart & Lung Disease
Research conducted at Harvard University among nurses found that women with low vitamin D levels (17 ng/m [42 nmol/L]) had a 67 percent increased risk of developing hypertension. A few studies in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests Vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk for developing high blood pressure.
In a recent Copenhagen University Hospital study reesearch revealed that participants who had the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to have had an 81% increased potential to die from heart disease, 64% greater risk of heart attacks, and 57% higher chance of early death than those with the highest vitamin D levels.
A University of Rochester Medical Center study published in The Annals of Family Medicine determined in a study that African Americans have higher incidences of deaths from heart attacks and stroke because of low serum levels of vitamin D. Research conducted at Harvard University among nurses found that women with low vitamin D levels (17 ng/m [42 nmol/L]) had a 67 percent increased risk of developing hypertension.
Published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a study reveals that inadequate circulating blood levels of vitamin D are responsible for both altered lung structure and decreased lung function, resulting in lower lung volume and decrements in lung function.

Vitamin D helps in Regulating the release of insulin: Researchers at the Institute of Animal Physiology in Munich, Germany, found that mice have vitamin D receptor cells located within insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas and these cells play an active role in the release of the blood sugar-regulating hormone when higher demand calls for its release. Limited human studies suggest a correlation between low vitamin D levels and insulin secretion and glucose tolerance in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
A study conducted in Finland was featured in in which 10,366 children were given 2000 international units (IU)/day of vitamin D3 per day during their first day of life. The children were monitored for 31 years and in all of them, the risk of type 1 diabetes was reduced by 80 percent.

Flu & Infections
A research at Harvard Medical School found that people with low blood levels of vitamin D were 55 percent more likely to get a cold, flu or upper respiratory infection. Research conducted in Japan revealed that asthma attacks in school children were significantly lowered in those subjects taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 1200 IU. According to Professor John White of McGill University and many others - vitamin D has the ability to naturally upregulate literally hundreds of antibiotics or antimicrobial peptides within our body. Vitamin D has also repeatedly shown great promise in fighting off colds and flu, and people who are D-deficient are more likely to get sick. Studies published in Nature Immunology have shown most of the people who die from H1N1 were chronically deficient in vitamin D.
Don't be fooled by deceptive (toxic flu shot) marketing campaigns.
People with lesser amounts of vitamin D in their bloodstream are over 30% more likely to have had a recent infection than those whose blood tests indicated higher levels of vitamin D. Another study on Mongolian schoolchildren in winter found that taking vitamin D supplements led to a 50% reduction in acute respiratory infections.

A recent 16-week study indicated that participants who consumed vitamin D had a significant reduction in abdominal fat. Every cell in your body needs vitamin D to function properly—including hated fat cells. Special receptors for vitamin D signal whether you should burn fat or simply store it; when vitamin D plugs into these receptors, it's like a key that revs your body's flab-melting mechanism. Vitamin D even optimizes your body's ability to absorb other important weight-loss nutrients, especially calcium. When your body lacks calcium, it can experience up to a fivefold increase in the fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that converts calories into fat. The ever-expanding obesity epidemic has been associated with a rising prevalence of vitamin D deficiency

Sun is the best sources but Supplements are not bad either
People should get as much safe sun exposure as possible to increase their vitamin D levels the way they were designed to.  The skin makes the best form of vitamin D from sun exposure and produces approximately 10,000 IU of vitamin D with just 20-30 minutes of full-body summer sun exposure. Since vitamin D precursors require cholesterol for conversion, without adequate sun exposure, vitamin D precursors can turn into cholesterol instead of the vitamin. Sunlight exposure is the best way to get Vitamin D, as the body automatically regulates how much Vitamin D it makes from sunlight. The body stores vitamin D for up to six months.
Lighter individuals need less time than darker individuals, about 30-60 minutes in the sun daily and for darker individuals, approximately 60-90 minutes.
The role of sunlight on synchronizing the hormonal rhythms of your body is profound. Melatonin, for example, which is synthesized by your pineal gland, is largly affected by light and dark, and proper exposure to bright sun during the day is important for maintaining your internal rhythm. Melatonin is also a potent antioxidant with cancer-fighting properties, so please do not underestimate the importance of daily UV exposure as well as the avoidance of artificial light after sunset.
Direct sunlight is the most natural source of Vitamin D, however if sun exposure is not feasible, you're well advised to take an oral supplement. Vitamin D supplementation is likely to reduce the risk of falls, particularly in individuals who have low baseline levels (<20 ng/ml) and are supplemented with calcium as well. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from sunshine or the minimum 1,000 International Units (IUs) from supplements and food, you may be increasing your health risk.
Fortification is market foods is usually done with vitamin D2, however vitamin D3 is the more beneficial of the two types of vitamin D in raising the vitamin D levels in our blood when given as a supplement. Some studies suggest that D2 should be avoided all together.

Other Immunological effects
Frail seniors with low levels of vitamin D have an increased risk of death, according to data analyzed by Oregon State University researchers.
A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) has found that elderly individuals who supplement with both vitamin D and calcium together may have a decreased risk of early mortality.
French researchers evaluated the safety and immunological effects of vitamin D supplementation in 20 systemic and lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients with low vitamin D levels. They observed these patients over six months and found that vitamin D was not only well-tolerated but, more importantly, there were no SLE flare-ups during the follow-up period.
One study showed that two out of five children admitted to the study center's pediatric hospital ward were deficient in the vitamin (below 20 ng/ml), and had more severe illness on admission. Children admitted with life-threatening septic shock had a median vitamin D level of just 19.2 ng/ml.
Growing evidence links low serum levels of D to many serious illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, kidney and heart disease.
Vitamin D has the ability to revive receptors in hair follicles that seemingly die and consequently leads many men to developing male pattern baldness. 

So Much Evidence But So Less Awareness
All of these recent findings support previous research showing that vitamin D may lower your risk of dying from ANY cause. But you would think of why has this advanced civilization not understood this benefit by now?  Well, teaching the population about vitamin D would mean the drug industry would suffer devastating losses in profits. The National Cancer Institute, for example, which is one of the wealthiest non-profits in the world, actively runs full-page ads that attempt to scare people away from sunlight, thereby causing them to remain in a state of vitamin D deficiency. The pharmaceutical industry is counting on this for its monopoly profits.

Get Your Vitamin D Now
A doctor can administer a simple blood test called 25-hydroxy vitamin D, or 25-OH D, which is the most reliable way to tell not only whether you are deficient but also how severe your deficiency is.
Raw milk naturally contains vitamin D, but the largest dietary source would have to be cod liver oil. Other good dietary sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna and mackerel (especially the flesh). Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks also contain small amounts.
The Vitamin D Council recommends blood levels between 50-80 ng/mL.  Adults can safely supplement with D-3 in divided doses up to 10,000 IU a day. If you have cancer your naturopath may prescribe much more.
Vitamin D supplementation even at these high levels is safe, and is considered not to develop too much calcium in blood or calcium deposits (such as kidney stones).

Some Interesting Facts
Vitamin D is produced by your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight.
The healing rays of natural sunlight (that generate vitamin D in your skin) cannot penetrate glass. So you don't generate vitamin D when sitting in your car or home.
Even weak sunscreens (SPF=8) block your body's ability to generate vitamin D by 95%.
If it hurts to press firmly on your sternum, you may be suffering from chronic vitamin D deficiency right now.
Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair your body's ability to activate circulating vitamin D as it is activated in your body by these two. These individuals need to take 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or one of its calcemic analogues to support calcium metabolism, decrease the risk of renal bone disease and regulate parathyroid hormone levels.
Vitamin D works in cooperation with other vitamins like magnesium, which itself is a largely deficient vitamin in the population.
Chronic vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight: it takes months of vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body's bones and nervous system.