Vitamin D: Not Just For Bones! Part 2 of 2 (May 2016)

In case you missed last month’s issue, we talked about Vitamin D 
deficiency and its relationship with pregnancy complications and 
hormonal imbalances. We’ll continue this month talking about Vitamin D and its relationship to cancer, heart disease and cognitive function.

Cancer

The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, combined with the discovery of increased risks of certain types of cancer in those who are deficient, suggest that vitamin D deficiency may account for several thousand premature deaths from colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer annually.5
A study designed in Norway involving over 115,000 diagnosed cases of breast, colon, and prostate cancers concluded that a high level of vitamin D3 at the time of diagnosis, and thus, during cancer treatment, may improve prognosis of the three cancer types.6 Another interesting part of the study suggested that diagnoses during summer and fall, the seasons with the highest level of vitamin D3, revealed the lowest risk of cancer death.6
The first study designed to assess the association of breast cancer and sunlight exposure was done by Northern California Cancer Center and found that high exposure to sunlight was associated with a 25–65% reduction in breast cancer risk among women whose longest residence was in a state of high solar radiation.7 Other measures of vitamin D exposures in the study included residential solar radiation, sun-induced skin damage, and dietary intake of vitamin D.
Researchers at Harvard just announced that the five year survival for patients with early stage, non-small cell carcinoma of the lung was almost three times better in those with evidence of the highest vitamin D levels compared to those with the lowest. Five-year survival for those with the highest levels approached 80%!8

Heart Disease

Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to diminish heart function, distort heart muscle structure, and induces plaque formation by increasing smooth muscles in the coronary arterial wall.9  Coronary heart disease is known for mainly being associated with lifestyle factors such as diets high in sugar and fat, smoking, and high alcohol intake.  Most of the time, health conscious adults regularly monitor only their glucose levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides.  Research is suggesting now that Vitamin D levels may be being overlooked when assessing causative factors linked to cardiovascular disease.  A study analyzing a database of over 250,000 individuals who had heart attacks maintained by the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction, found that infarctions surged by 53% during sun-deprived winter months compared to summer.10

A study that looked at patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) found correlation with low serum vitamin D levels and other high inflammatory markers.  The low vitamin D status can explain alterations in minerals and electrolyte metabolism as well as myocardial dysfunction in the CHF patients, and it may therefore be a contributing factor in the pathogenesis of CHF.11

Another study published in American journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology studied 10,000 Danes and found that those with low levels of vitamin D were 64% more likely to have a heart attack. Plus, they had a 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease, a 57% increased risk of early death, and an 81% higher risk of dying from heart disease.12

Cognitive Function

The brain relies on vitamin D receptors for protection against the things that can damage it. Receptors for vitamin D have been found in many parts of the brain. Receptors are found on the surface of a cell where they receive chemical signals that direct a cell to do something.  Vitamin D receptors in the brain can influence the way one thinks and acts.  Scientists have found that in people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, there are fewer vitamin D receptors in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in forming memories.8

Another research group which conducted a study that observed over 1,600 seniors for six years found that those who were severely deficient in vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who had adequate levels.13  These results were twice as much as was anticipated.

A study conducted for over 75 years, found that participants who had been diagnosed with dementia had a lower vitamin D average than the other groups. Researchers also conducted cognitive tests that evaluated episodic memory, semantic memory, visual perception and executive function. Those tests showed that participants with lower levels of vitamin D demonstrated a greater decline in both cognitive ability and episodic memory.14

Testing is KEY

Don’t guess about your Vitamin D levels. In fact, if you’re low in Vitamin D, chances are you’re deficient in other nutrients as well and there may be other health conditions that can cause low levels of vitamin D. Screenings for these are part of our routine tests. Finding out where your nutritional status lies and getting a good baseline is recommended at any age.  Let us guide you down the right path with an individualized plan that is constructed specifically towards your needs.  Let us help you with a safe natural option to do something better today that will enhance your health tomorrow.

References
1. Available at: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2010/1/startling-findings-about-vitamin-d-levels-in-life-extension-members/page-01. Accessed March 15, 2016
2. Carol L. Wagner, MD, neonatologist and pediatric researcher, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
3. Obstetrics & Gynecology February 2015 – Volume 125 – Issue 2 – p 439–447
4. 40 Reasons To Give Your Baby 40+ Weeks Of Pregnancy. BellyBelly. Updated on September 28, 2015.
5. Grant WB. An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the US because of inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation. Cancer. 2002;94(6): 1867–1875.
6. Robsahm TE, Tretli S, Dahlback A, Moan J. Vitamin D3 from sunlight may improve the prognosis of breast-, colon- and prostate cancer (Norway). Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Mar;15(2):149-58.
7. Esther M. John,2 Gary G. Schwartz, Darlene M. Dreon, and Jocelyn Koo. Vitamin D and Breast Cancer Risk: The NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, 1971–1975 to 1992
Northern California Cancer Center
8. Vitamindcouncil.com. Accessed on March 10, 2016.
9. Achinger SG, Ayus JC. The role of vitamin D in left ventricular hypertrophy and cardiac function. Kidney Int Suppl. 2005 Jun;(95):S37-S42.
10. Vieth R. Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety. Am.J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):842-56.
11. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003 Jan 1;41(1):105-12.
12. Vitamin D deficiency increases risk of heart disease. University of Copenhagen. September 24, 2012
13. Link found between Vitamin D deficiency and dementia. Alzheimer’s.net. October 29, 2015. Accessed on March 10, 2016.
14. Vitamin D Status and Rates of Cognitive Decline in a Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults. JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(11):1295-1303. November 2015.
15. Joshua W. Miller, PhD; Danielle J. Harvey, PhD; Laurel A. Beckett, PhD, et.al. Vitamin D Status and Rates of Cognitive Decline in a Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults
JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(11):1295-1303
16. Women with breast cancer have low Vitamin D levels. University of Rochester Medical Center. October 10, 2009