I imagine many of you right now are changing your diet and trying to exercise. Although many people make new goals, only a small percentage actually follow through in a meaningful fashion.
Remember: it didn’t take you weeks to a few months to get overweight or out of shape. You certainly can’t expect to get your weight back under control or become physically fit in this period of time as well. Just remember, for every healthy item you consume and every unhealthy food you avoid, you’re one step closer to wellness.
I’d like to start off with a vitamin I consider to be an unsung hero. That star nutrient is none other than vitamin D. Most of you probably think that vitamin D is just good for bones, but that’s far from the whole story.
In the January edition of Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, Harvard Medical School researcher, Dr. Giovanucci, noted that studies over the past year have given increasing support to the notion that higher levels of vitamin D may reduce risk of colon cancer1. He indicated that typical dietary intake of 200 IU to 400 IU per day may be too low to exert any appreciable effect. He further noted that potential benefits of vitamin D on other digestive tract cancers and on survival in patients with colon/rectal cancer have been suggested by recent studies, but they require confirmation.
In a related article in the December American Journal of Public Health, University of California at San Diego researchers did a PubMed search yielding 63 observational studies of vitamin D status in relation to cancer risk, including 30 on colon cancer, 13 on breast cancer, 26 on prostate cancer and seven on ovarian cancer2.
The majority of studies found a protective relationship between sufficient vitamin D status and lower cancer risk. Authors noted that evidence suggests efforts to improve vitamin D status, for example by vitamin D supplementation, could reduce cancer incidence and mortality at low cost, with few or no adverse effects.
In the December edition of the journal Cancer, a study on colonic polyps, frequently precursors of colon cancer, was reported3. Of the nineteen participants, eleven were given calcium carbonate 1500 mg, plus vitamin D3 400 IUs, three times daily, whereas the rest were given placebo for six months. It was found calcium plus vitamin D resulted in tissue changes that may have contributed to reduce polyp formation.
There was another interesting article I came across regarding vitamin D and acute stroke. In the January edition of the journal Stroke, it was noted that vitamin D deficiency is well documented in long-term stroke survivors and is associated with post-stroke hip fractures4. In the current study, 44 patients were admitted to an acute stroke unit with first-ever strokes. Vitamin D levels were measured and compared to 96 healthy ambulatory elderly subjects. It was found that reduced vitamin D levels were identified in the majority of patients with acute stroke throughout the year and may have preceded the stroke. The researchers go on to indicate that reduced vitamin D is a potential risk marker for stroke.
In another neurologic related matter, there was a study published in the journal Joint, Bone, Spine December regarding Parkinson’s disease5. It was noted that the incidence of fractures is high in patients with Parkinson’s disease (because of frequent falls), with femoral neck fractures in older women being particularly common. Other risk factors noted include inadequate vitamin D intake, with low 25-OH vitamin D levels. There have actually been previous studies in the medical literature indicating that vitamin D may, in some way, have some beneficial effect for balance.
Another study I found fascinating was in the November edition of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism6. In the study, 179 girls between ages 10 and 17 were randomly assigned to receive either 200 IUs of vitamin D daily or 2, 000 units daily of vitamin D in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled one-year protocol. In the overall group, lean mass increased significantly in both treatment groups, but bone area and total hip bone mineral density increased only in the high-dose group to a statistically significant level.
I think the take-home message from these recently-published studies is clear. Vitamin D is an important nutrient most people are probably consuming in inadequate doses.
Look for a supplement that contains 700 units or higher, and one that includes calcium and magnesium if you can find. There’s strong evidence that calcium and magnesium not only provide benefits for strong bones but also for healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular function. Studies on calcium also indicate it’s beneficial for promoting weight loss.
I strongly recommend taking at least 500 mg calcium citrate malate, 300 to 500 mg magnesium and 700 to 2, 000 IU of vitamin D per day, based on overwhelming evidence.
- 1. Giovannucci, Edward. The epidemiology of vitamin D and colorectal cancer: recent findings.Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 22(1):24-29, Jan.
- 2. Cedric F. Garland, Frank C. Garland, Edward D. Gorham, Martin Lipkin, Harold Newmark, Sharif B. Mohr, and Michael F. Holick. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer PreventionAJPH, Dec. 27, 10.2105/AJPH.2004.045260.
- 3. Holt PR, Bresalier RS, Ma CK, Liu KF, Lipkin M, Byrd JC, Yang K. Calcium plus vitamin D alters preneoplastic features of colorectal adenomas and rectal mucosa. Cancer, Dec. 13 (ePub ahead of print).
- 4. Kenneth E. S. Poole, Nigel Loveridge, Peter J. Barker, David J. Halsall, Collette Rose, Jonathan Reeve, and Elizabeth A. Warburton. Reduced Vitamin D in Acute Stroke. Stroke 37: 243 – 245.
- 5. Vaserman, N. Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis. Joint Bone Spine. Dec;72(6):484-488.
- 6. El-Hajj Fuleihan G, Nabulsi M, Tamim H, Maalouf J, Salamoun M, Khalife H, Choucair M, Arabi A, Vieth R. Effect of Vitamin D Replacement on Musculoskeletal Parameters in School Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 90: 6338.