Dr Ellie on why people should be taking Vitamin D supplements
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Taking vitamin D supplements during the colder months is non-negotiable. From keeping your bones healthy to boosting your immune system, vitamin D plays a crucial part in your overall health. What’s more, research suggests the sunshine vitamin could even stave off cancer.
Being stripped of vitamin D means your risk of various illnesses, including several types of cancer, grows higher.
But can topping up your levels of the sunshine vitamin cut your risk of the deadly disease?
Harvard researchers set out to investigate the connection between cancer and vitamin D in a randomised trial, published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Looking at 25,871 people, the research team instructed the participants to take 2,000 International Units (IU) of the vitamin per day.
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This is a far greater amount than the NHS recommends to supplement with on a daily basis.
The health service explains that adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, which is the equivalent of 400 IU.
The participants in the trial were aged 50 or older, and free of cancer at the start of the study.
After following the cohort for an average of 5.3 years, the research team found that the supplements reduced the risk of metastatic or fatal cancers by 17 percent.
In case you’re not aware, metastatic cancer describes cancer that has spread from where it started to a distant part of the body.
Furthermore, the risk fell even lower – 38 percent – in people who were of a healthy weight.
The research focused on vitamin D3 supplementation, which describes a type of the sunshine vitamin that is made by your skin when you expose it to the sunlight.
The Harvard Medical School adds: “What do the results of this large and careful study tell us about what we should do?
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“For people of [a healthy weight] at risk of developing cancer (because of lifestyle or a family history of cancer), it would be reasonable to take daily vitamin D supplements starting at about age 50.”
This isn’t the first research to look at the link between the sunshine vitamin and cancer.
Previous studies suggested that people who have higher blood levels of vitamin D seem to have a lower risk of cancer.
However, Barry Kramer, director of Division of Cancer Prevention, said such studies can only highlight associations, not prove cause and effect.
He added: “This is why it’s important to question intuitions and observational epidemiology studies, and fund large-scale trials.”
Furthermore, other research papers also suggested that supplementing with vitamin D doesn’t reduce the risk of cancer.
The NHS recommends looking into supplementation during the autumn and winter months in the UK, where your body can’t synthesise the vitamin organically from the sunshine.
If you want to boost your vitamin D dietary intake, good food sources include:
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel)
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods (fat spreads and breakfast cereals).
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