Few vitamin/herb/plant supplements have stood the test of time. However, that hasn’t stopped the supplement industry from doing business – $26 billion last year.
The resveratrols, beta-keratins, and B12 have all had their day, only to find that the original studies were oversold and deeply flawed. Then again, one of the first vitamins that was discovered, the humble sunshine vitamin (D), has quietly proven its worth.
Vitamin D was discovered more than 100 years ago in cod liver oil, which was used to treat rickets, a disease rarely seen in the past 75 years. Low levels of vitamin D during growth cause weight-bearing bones to weaken and bow, making you look like you’re riding a horse – minus the horse. That’s because low levels of vitamin D cause poor calcium deposits in your bones.
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight. That doesn’t mean you need a double cheeseburger to make vitamin D. We have a built-in system that is pretty efficient, and capable of making 20,000 units in 20 minutes of strong sunlight.
Sunblock decreases vitamin D production by 95 percent. Keep in mind the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 600 units per day. Is that too low? Many people think so. Most of the research has involved doses of 2,000 to 6,000 units per day. Vitamin D has a half-life of two weeks, so blood levels go up or down very slowly.
The prevention of Rickets is not exactly exciting news. How about the prevention of diabetes?
Infants given 2,000 units per day had an almost 90 percent reduction in Type 1 diabetes by age 32. Heart disease is also less frequent in people who supplement vitamin D. It makes the blood vessels more flexible so fewer break (stroke) or plug (heart attack).
We have been trying to prevent cancer ever since there were supplements. Many free radical clearing anti-oxidants that looked great on paper did not make a measurable difference in the cancer rate. Vitamin C is in that category.
Vitamin D is the exception. Supplementing vitamin D measurably lowers colon and prostate cancer. It has been shown to suppress the cancer gene expression and slow cancer growth.
There is even a benefit to Multiple Sclerosis patients who have precious few treatment options.
While none of the supplements qualify as a fountain of youth, vitamin D has evidence-based benefits and it remains on my short list of supplements that I still take every day.