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Cancer and Vitamin D

If I caught your attention with that headline, why not review your supplements right now and add up the total number of units of vitamin D you’re taking every day.

If that number is at least 1,000 IU (international units), hit the DELETE button and move on to your next e-mail. You can do so feeling pretty confident that your nutritional program has been lowering your risk of developing cancers of the breast, colon, and ovary by as much as 50%.

All this was the subject of an interesting article entitled “The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention,” which appeared in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health and reviewed 63 separate studies conducted over the past 40 years.

The conclusion: public health authorities should urge people to increase their vitamin D consumption.

Vitamin D has been getting more and more positive press lately. Low levels of vitamin D have already been linked to multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Scientists know that you need vitamin D to increase calcium absorption, control immune function, and reduce your body’s resistance to insulin and thus prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Most vitamin D is made by your body itself, produced by the effect of sunlight on your skin. But if you live in heavily overcast parts of the world with dark autumns and winters–or if you cover up in the sun or stay indoors a lot–you’re definitely at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

It’s for this reason, by the way, that more people develop multiple sclerosis in the darker Scandinavian countries and in Canada than along the equator.

If your supplements are giving you less than 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day and you think you’re getting a lot of D from foods, consider:

  • One cup of vitamin D-fortified milk has barely 100 IU of D–about 10% of my recommendation.
  • One egg yolk: 25 IU of vitamin D.
  • On the other hand, one tablespoon of cod liver oil has more than 1,300 IU of vitamin D.

If you’re interested in taking a supplement, check your local pharmacy or click here for the vitamin D we recommend to our patients. It’s surprisingly inexpensive and really can pay off in positive health rewards.

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