For years, people didn’t pay much attention to vitamin D. We knew that adequate levels were important to prevent osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone and joint diseases. And that was about it. Get enough, but not too much, and that was about that.
The last few years, though, vitamin D has been thrust into the limelight as a sort of nutritional superstar. We now see that it prevents kidney disease, birth defects, chronic muscle pain and weakness in the elderly, seasonal affective disorder, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, and maybe even autism. Plus probably heart disease and cancer as well.
This simple nutrient which we make effortlessly from the sun, which comes in tiny little inexpensive pills, could very well join exercise, stress reduction, non-smoking, restful sleep, and a healthful diet in the small but elite canon of health practices that flat-out promote health and prolong life.
Now I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of all the diseases vitamin D prevents and/or treats, dosing, the various kinds of D you can get, and where to get it. I already covered all that about two years ago. It’s in the archives on our website (www.debrasnaturalgourmet.com), and in the notebooks that hold back issues of our newsletters near the community table in the store. Instead, let’s look at the big picture.
Last September, a team of French and Italian researchers published a landmark paper in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine examining vitamin D versus all-cause mortality (“All-cause mortality” is a fancy way of saying “dying”). The paper was a meta-analysis ? where individual studies are sort of “added up” statistically.
Eighteen vitamin D trials were included, involving a total of 57,311 participants, for an average of 5.7 years. People were given anywhere from 300 to 2,000 i.u. vitamin D, with an average of 528, daily (or placebo).
Over the average 5.7 years, 7% fewers people died who took the vitamin D versus those who received a placebo.
Do you have any idea how amazing those results are?
Now, these results maybe would not have been so dramatic in the general population in people who were not at risk for heart disease or cancer, osteoporosis or any of the other conditions studied in the trials.
Then again, these aren’t exactly fringe diseases… And we should bear in mind, too, that the meta-analysis was looking at all-cause mortality: dying of all causes. So even though a study may have involved people at risk for, say, hip fracture, the reduction in death rate included much more than that. It included deaths from things that, maybe, nobody has even thought to connect to vitamin D yet.
On some level, no pill, no matter how miraculous, will ever fully replace the spiritual and energetic nourishment we derive from sunlight, from the feel of the outdoors on our bare skin, basking in the warm glow and all that good stuff.
But we live in New England, and, global warming notwithstanding, all that good stuff is still pretty hard to come by around the time November comes rattling in. So pills it is, at least for a few months a year.
Now I’m young, relatively healthy, and don’t see any heart attacks or hip fractures looming on the horizon. But I’ll be taking my vitamin D come this winter. 2,000 i.u a day (give or take) will be my dose.