By now, “make sure you’re not deficient in vitamin D” is an oldie…but it’s still a goodie too.
In the years since the vitamin D craze first began, researchers have only become more certain that vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem, and that the simple practice of maintaining optimal levels could be the solution to a staggering number of health issues.
Even mainstream medicine has begun to recognize vitamin D’s multi-faceted importance. In recent years, the RDA was raised from 600 IU to 800 IU—a very good sign, considering the bureaucratic nightmare involved in changing an official nutrient recommendation. But some experts warn that even the new RDA for vitamin D is more than ten times lower than what the body actually needs.
If that’s not scary enough, get this: Dr. Robert Heaney, M.D.—arguably the world’s leading vitamin D researcher—says with great confidence that the current insufficient RDA was set due to mathematical error.
When he used precisely the same data sets the Institute of Medicine used to calculate their official RDA, his calculations yielded 7,000 IU. Another research team at the University of Edmonton carried out the same process, and came to 8,895 IU as the ideal RDA.
Furthermore, all of these calculations are based on the assumption that 20 nanograms per milliliter is a sufficient blood level of vitamin D for optimal health. This belief has been strongly called into question by many top researchers, who maintain that a year-round level of 40-60 ng/ml is the real sweet spot.
Dr. Heaney’s research has demonstrated that 20 ng/ml is not even sufficient to prevent osteomalacia (one of the signs of severe vitamin D and calcium deficiency), let alone promote peak health and performance.
So why are optimal vitamin D levels so important?
There’s no shortage of research on the ravages of vitamin D deficiency. Studies have linked it to a wide array of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal issues, Alzheimer’s disease and general cognitive decline, greater incidence of infectious illness, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, stroke, and cancer.
Even the IOM itself (who set the low RDA in the first place) conducted a huge study showing that people most deficient in vitamin D have an 88% increased risk of death from any cause.
With all the confusion surrounding what blood level actually comprises a deficiency, though, this wealth of research still hasn’t changed the tide of public opinion—despite the fact that maintaining a vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml is one of the simplest and most direct possible ways to combat nearly every prevalent health issue our society faces.
We’re moving in the right direction, though. New research is focusing specifically on what happens when a blood level of 40 ng/ml is maintained—a methodology that circumvents the debate surrounding the “true” RDA for vitamin D.
And the results are very convincing. One prominent study demonstrated that a vitamin D blood level of 40 ng/ml reduces the risk of developing all invasive cancers by as much as 67%.
This is a staggering finding. Past research has shown that a blood level of 50 ng/ml specifically decreases the risk of breast cancer by 50%, and that low levels of vitamin D are found in all men with aggressive prostate cancer, but a correlation between optimal vitamin D levels and universal cancer prevention is truly unique and revolutionary.
This landmark study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, even went so far as to state that optimizing vitamin D levels is a key cancer prevention tool—perhaps even more important and effective than any early detection strategies.
Vitamin D is a no-brainer
There’s not many health practices or supplements that provide unequivocal and dramatic benefits with almost no necessary effort—but vitamin D is one of them. Just the study mentioned above should convince you that keeping track of your vitamin D levels is worth it—and cancer prevention is just one of the myriad benefits that come with maintaining a blood level of 40 ng/ml (vitamin D is crucial for nearly every process in the body).
Optimizing your vitamin D level starts with spending sufficient time in the sun. As we’ve discussed before, sun avoidance actually causes cancer much more readily then the sun itself—and the vitamin D deficiency that results from sun-phobia is one reason why. Spend at least twenty minutes in direct sunlight every day, preferably with a good portion of your skin exposed.
Depending on the climate, seasons, and latitude of your location, though, you may not be able to get all the vitamin D you need from sunlight. Be sure to have yourself tested regularly, and supplement accordingly if your levels are still low.
When choosing a supplement, seek out reputable brands, but don’t fret too much about the details. Some evidence suggests that vitamin D is somewhat more absorbable when it is either plant-derived or in aqueous solution, but the difference is not a huge one.
So don’t wait; take these steps toward optimizing your vitamin D levels today. Doing so represents one of your greatest opportunities to strengthen and support every aspect of your physical health…take advantage of it!