March 28, 2016

The Benefits of Vitamin D - Women of Influence (Winter issue)

By Selene Wilkinson

My main role as a naturopathic doctor is to look at each individual patient in a holistic manner to help them reach their optimum health goals.  This includes looking at diet, lifestyle, stress, exercise, etc.  That said, given the busy and full lifestyles that my patients lead, I am constantly asked what are some easy things that can be done to stay healthy. Although there is no quick fix for all health concerns, one way you can take care yourself is to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.  

Studies have shown that vitamin D can not only prevent many chronic diseases, but can also be beneficial in weight loss and many believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of what this vitamin can do.


Maintains bone, joint and muscle health

Vitamin D is well known for its ability to regulate calcium and phosphorous levels in the blood to aid in bone growth and remodelling. Studies have shown that supplementing can help maintain strong bones, muscle and joint health, and also reduce hip fractures by 60-70%.
Cancer prevention
Research shows that appropriate levels of vitamin D can help prevent breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal cancer.  One four-year clinical trial that involved 1,200 women, discovered that those taking vitamin D had an astounding 60% reduction in the incidence of cancer compared with those who did not take the supplement. 
Weight loss
Recent research suggests that vitamin D levels may be correlated with ones ability to loose weight.  One study showed that low levels of vitamin D in the body at the start of a low-caloric diet were able to predict weight loss success.  For each nanogram per milliliter increase in vitamin D precursor in the blood, it was observed that an extra half pound loss in weight was able to be achieved with the appropriate diet plan.

Additionally, a higher baseline of vitamin D levels (both the precursor and active forms) predicted greater loss of abdominal fat. These results suggest that the addition of vitamin D to a reduced-calorie diet will lead to better weight loss.

The list goes on…
Vitamin D also supports brain and nervous system health. Studies show that high circulating levels of vitamin D were linked with lowering the risk of MS and reversing inflammation associated with Parkinson’s and age-related dementia.  Low levels have also been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.  Vitamin D can decrease depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and strengthen the immune system for cold and flu prevention. A dose of 800 IU daily can reduce the incidence of cold and flu and 2000 IU daily, can reduce the incidence even further. Vitamin D also supports the health of mother and child during pregnancy and lactation. A study showed that children born in the winter when the mothers D3 levels are the lowest have an increased risk of developing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, MS and some cancers in the future and it is essential for mother to prevent bone loss and preeclampsia.


It is clear that vitamin D is an essential part of our overall health.  But where do we get this super nutrient? Our main source of vitamin D is from sunlight. Exposing the skin to the sun's UVB rays for short periods of time triggers the synthesis of vitamin D. The limited sun exposure to the skin may explain why the incidence of cancer is higher in northern latitudes than at the equator. The fact that Canadians do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight from October through March prompted the Canadian Cancer Society in June 2007 to recommend adults take 1000 IU of vitamin D per day in the fall and winter. Adults over 50, people with dark skin, those who do not go outdoors often, and those who wear sunscreen daily should take the supplement all year round.
Vitamin D can also be found in small amounts in some foods. Certain fish such as Salmon, can provide 300-500 IU per serving, milk provides 100 IU per glass and egg yolks as well as mushrooms also contain minimal amounts. Given this information, health authorities may move towards implementing a substantial increase in food fortification to affect the research study results.
If you are deficient in vitamin D, the best way to increase your levels is to supplement with vitamin D3. Initially a high dose may be necessary to bring your levels to an optimum range. Once your levels are stable, supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day depending on the time of year, your ethnicity, health, size and lifestyle is a good idea. 
It is best to speak with your medical or naturopathic doctor to discuss what amount would be suitable for you.

I recommend to all of my patients to keep their vitamin D levels at an optimal range using diet, supplements and regular, safe sun exposure to maintain bone health, decrease the risks of certain serious diseases such as cancer, to potentially help with weight loss, and to increase their immune system.

View this article on page 18 in the Women of Influence magazine - Winter Edition