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Vitamin D Can Extend Life, Slow Bone Loss

Vitamin D has protective effects against breast and prostate cancers, multiple sclerosis, and more. Learn more about its newfound importance from Michael T. Murray, N.D., author of What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life — and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You.

Considerable attention is focused on the need for increased levels of calcium, but most experts now agree that much greater attention should be focused on vitamin D. Its metabolic products not only stimulate calcium absorption but slow bone loss, increase bone formation, and reduce the risk of falling. It is estimated that by simply supplementing the diet with 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D more than half of all hip fractures could be prevented. The economic consequences of such a policy would be enormous: over a five-year period, more than 734,000 hip fractures could be avoided and more than $13.9 billion in health care costs could be saved.

In addition, an analysis of studies with vitamin D showed that the participants who took vitamin D supplements had a 7 percent lower risk of death during the study period than those who did not. Of course, this result is not surprising. It is now known that virtually every cell in our body has receptors for vitamin D and that vitamin D is not just a vitamin. It also performs very powerful hormonal activities and has protective effects against certain cancers (particularly cancer of the breast and prostate), autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, and heart disease. So, lack of vitamin D would affect far more than just our bones. Can you imagine the marketing that a drug company would put behind a drug that was shown to increase your chance of living longer? Sadly, this benefit of vitamin D has gone largely ignored because there is no financial reward for getting the word out.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has added another major benefit for vitamin D and also provides an explanation for its promotion of longevity. Vitamin D may slow aging by increasing the length of telomeres. A telomere is the section of a chromosome that shortens each time a cell replicates. The shorter the telomere gets, the more it affects gene expression. The result is cellular aging. In this study, scientists considered the effects of vitamin D on the length of telomeres in white blood cells of 2,160 women aged 18 to 79 years. The higher the vitamin D levels, the longer the telomere. In terms of the effect on aging, there was a five-year difference in telomere length in those with the highest levels of vitamin D compared with those with the lowest levels. Obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity can shorten the telomere, but the researchers found that increasing vitamin D levels overcame these effects. What this five-year difference means is that a 70-year-old women with higher vitamin D levels would have a biological age of 65 years.

Michael T. Murray, N.D., author of What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life — and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You (Copyright © 2009 by Michael T. Murray, N.D.), is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. He has been featured on numerous television programs, including 20/20 and Dateline. He lives in Washington.



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