The Sunshine Vitamin
Perhaps the most well-known contribution sunlight has to our well-being is triggering Vitamin D synthesis. The term “vitamin D” refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds that serve as hormone precursors to the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol. One form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), found in fish, egg yolks, and cheese, and synthesized in the skin of humans and animals. At least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body are now thought to be regulated by D3, the active form of the vitamin, including several involved in calcium metabolism and neuromuscular and immune system functioning. Another form, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), is synthesized by plants, such as mushrooms, and is the form most often used to fortify foods such as milk.
The recent scientific interest in vitamin D can be largely attributed to Dr. Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, considered the world’s leading expert on this subject. Dr. Holick, who has been studying vitamin D for more than 30 years, is a Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics; Director of the General Clinical Research Unit; Director of the Bone Health Care Clinic; and Director of the Heliotherapy, Light, and Skin Research Center at Boston University Medical Center.
In his book, The Vitamin D Solutions: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problem, Holick identifies the causes of vitamin D deficiency and outlines why it is essential for our health. He states that as many as 200 million Americans who are deficient in this essential vitamin are suffering as a result from chronic diseases and life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity and osteoporosis.
There are currently well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D’s effectiveness–both for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to dozens of
medical conditions, including insomnia, hypertension, arthritis, asthma, autism, low-back pain, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, heart and cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, tuberculosis, Crohn’s disease, neuropathy, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, liver disease, mental disorders, different cancers and other conditions. Indeed, a growing number of scientists around the world have been arguing that the health benefits of UVB radiation seem to far outweigh the adverse effects, and that the risks can be minimized by carefully managing exposure (e.g., by avoiding sunburn), as well as by increasing one’s intake of dietary antioxidants.
In a recent meta-analysis, published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 25 studies on 17,332 cancer patients were analyzed. The analysis demonstrated that vitamin D levels are linked to better outcomes in several types of cancer.
In his studies of the effects of Vitamin D2 and D3 on mutating cells, Dr. Anthony Petaku, observed that the incidence of disease increases the further away people are from the equator. “The millions of people who live near the equator are not susceptible to the same level of disease or even the same diseases as those who live further from the equator,” he stated. Dr. Petaku has found that latitude studies which are observational on vitamin D and disease show a clear correlation between solar UV radiation, latitude and vitamin D status. “Almost every disease decreases in frequency and duration as we move towards equatorial populations, and the data shows that there is a minimum of a 1000 percent increase for many diseases in countries furthest from the equator” he concluded.