Vitamin D or the “sunshine vitamin” is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by the body when directly exposed to sunlight. If you don’t have enough exposure to sunlight, vitamin D is also available in certain foods and supplements. This vitamin has several important functions, including regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. This function allows vitamin D to support both bone and oral health. Now, recent evidence suggests that the benefits of vitamin D extend beyond contributing to healthy bones.
A study published in the journal Cancer Prevention, Hereditary Genetics, and Epidemiology found that vitamin D supplementation taken for at least three years can help extend the life of cancer patients. This finding is especially important as cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, according to a report by the World Health Organization.
Increase your longevity with vitamin D
Researchers from the Hurley Medical Center and Michigan State University evaluated the efficacy of vitamin D as a means to prevent cancer. To do so, the research team conducted a comprehensive database search. The team analyzed the data related to disease prevention from more than 79,000 patients in multiple studies that randomly compared vitamin D supplementation to placebo over at least three years. The researchers also focused on studies where cancer incidence or mortality was reported.
From the results, they determined that vitamin D supplementation was associated with a significant reduction in cancer-related death. It did not, however, affect cancer incidence. (Related: Vitamin D halts growth of breast cancer tumors.)
“Vitamin D had a significant effect on lowering the risk of death among those with cancer, but unfortunately it didn’t show any proof that it could protect against getting cancer,” said co-author Tarek Haykal, an internal medicine resident physician at Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center.
Haykal said that the difference in mortality rate between the vitamin D and placebo groups was statistically significant to make a difference among the cancer population. However, while these findings show promise, the researchers warned that the dosage and the level of vitamin D in the blood are still unknown. They also said that it’s unclear how long this vitamin extends the life of cancer patients.
“There are still many questions, and more research is needed,” Haykal said. “All we can say is that at least three years of taking the supplement is required to see any effect.”
Other benefits of vitamin D
Aside from reducing your risk of developing bone abnormalities and increasing the longevity of cancer patients, vitamin D has other surprising health benefits:
- It can help reduce depression. Vitamin D can play a role in regulating your mood and preventing depression. Recent research has established a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. A study published in the journal Issues in Mental Health Nursing found that groups who were at risk for vitamin D deficiency were also the same groups that were at risk for depression. The researchers suggested that treating inadequate vitamin D levels could improve the patients’ long-term health outcomes and their quality of life.
- It can assist in weight loss. Recent evidence has shown that weight loss and vitamin D could go hand-in-hand. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that a higher body mass index and body fat percentage were linked to lower blood levels of vitamin D. In another study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that taking a daily dose of calcium and vitamin D supplementation could help people lose weight compared to taking placebo.
Taking vitamin D supplements can do wonders for your overall health. Learn more about the nutritional benefits of the sunshine vitamin at VitaminD.news.