As the medical studies continue to unfold, consumers may see Vitamin D morph from the “sunshine” vitamin to the “super” vitamin. Over the past few years, research teams have pinpointed Vitamin D as a bold adversary to a variety of ailments from diabetes and heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis.
Drink manufacturers have quickly responded to these findings with the fortification of orange juice and dairy free beverages. “Almost every brand of rice, soy, nut, or grain milk that we have listed on our site is fortified with Vitamin D,” states Alisa Fleming, founder of the informational website, www.GoDairyFree.org.
Now these beverage producers may have even more reason to gloat. Two new studies have been released, indicating the potential of Vitamin D as a key link in the prevention and eventual treatment for one of the most widely publicized diseases, breast cancer.
At the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Ontario, a team of researchers interviewed approximately 576 patients who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,135 people who had no evidence of cancer. Their report revealed that those who had worked at an outdoors job between the ages of 10 and 19 had a roughly 40 percent reduction in their risk of breast cancer. In addition, those who engaged in frequent outdoor activities (exercise related or not) between the ages of 10 and 29 had an estimated 35 percent lower risk for breast cancer.
In most nations this good news is overshadowed by skin cancer related messages, which urge people to fully cover up before heading out into the light. Most doctors agree that a few minutes of uninhibited sunshine per day can be very beneficial. However, the American Cancer Society’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Len Lichtenfeld, MD, maintains his recommendation that any time spent in the sun must include sun protection.
Fortunately, the benefits are not linked to sunshine alone. Vitamin D intake through foods and supplements was also linked to a decrease in the occurrence of breast cancer. For example, taking cod liver oil, one of the richest food-based sources of Vitamin D, between the ages of 10 and 19 reduced breast cancer risk by about 25 percent.
One more important finding by the Ontario team magnified these positive results. The risk reduction benefits of Vitamin D through diet and lifestyle remained significant, even when adjusted for other breast cancer risk factors such as ethnicity, age, close relatives with breast cancer, age at menarche, and age at a woman’s first birth.
Another research group out of the University of California, San Diego concurred that an increase in the doses of dietary Vitamin D may help prevent breast cancer. In fact, they stated that the optimal level of Vitamin D intake might be more than three times the current average for Americans. In their pooled study that included 1,760 women, Vitamin D blood serum levels that equated to approximately 1000 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D consumed per day, were associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of breast cancer. At present, the average American consumes only 320 IU of Vitamin D per day. The upper limit for vitamin D intake established by the National Academy of Sciences is 2,400 IU/day, with no toxic effects reported for intakes below 3,800 IU per day.
The positive outcomes of these and other cancer related Vitamin D studies have prompted the call for more intensive research. Researchers and food manufacturers have high hopes that Vitamin D may become a superpower in the fight against disease. If their expectations come to fruition, consumers shouldn’t be surprised to see a publicity hype that surpasses the calcium fortification fad of the past decade.