Vitamin D enhances health in THREE major ways
This month, vitamin D levels among most Americans reach their highest of the entire year—due to all the extra time we spend outside basking in the sun.
And that’s great news! In fact, as long as you’re safe and watch your hydration levels, the more time you spend in the sun this month, the better.
That’s because three major studies from the first half of 2023 show the critical role vitamin D plays in safeguarding your brain, metabolism, and mood.
Meaning the “sunshine vitamin” might just be the mightiest health enhancer of all…
Prevent brain decline
A recent study looked at the effect of vitamin D supplementation on dementia.
This brain disease is a problem of epic proportions, with no known cure. And it strikes over 55 million worldwide. Plus, by 2050, the number of cases will likely more than double.1
So, finding a simple, safe, preventative solution is absolutely critical.
To start, the researchers analyzed data on more than 12,000 cognitively healthy men and women with an average age of 71. Just over one-third of the participants reported taking some form of vitamin D supplement. (But we don’t know how much they took daily.) The rest of the cohort did not take vitamin D.
After collecting this data, the researchers checked back in 10 years later and came across some truly ASTOUNDING results…
It turns out, those who took D supplements developed 40 percent fewer dementia cases over those 10 years compared to those who did not. And the women in the study who took vitamin D seemed to get the biggest boost in protection…
They were a staggering 49 percent less likely to develop dementia compared to those who didn’t take the simple supplement.
Researchers think vitamin D may work by clearing out harmful proteins that accumulate in the brains of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Another expert chimed in and said we also can’t discount the role vitamin D plays in balancing immunity and taming inflammation (both of which are key players in the development of cognitive conditions).
No matter how you look at it, those are pretty powerful results. Especially when you consider we don’t know anything about how much vitamin D they took. For all we know, they could have been taking a minuscule amount—which is quite common when it comes to supplementing with D. (In a moment, I’ll tell you about the optimal dose for cognitive health.)
Now, let’s move on to the second huge vitamin D study out this year…
Guard against diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a major metabolic disorder that occurs when the body’s cells no longer properly respond to the hormone insulin.
As a result, the body can’t properly transport sugar (glucose) from the food you eat into your cells, so it collects in your bloodstream.
And this can cause a whole host of related problems—including damage to your blood vessels, hearing, kidneys, and eyes. Not to mention it can shorten your lifespan by as much as a decade!2
Of course, Type 2 diabetes is an unmitigated epidemic in the United States, affecting more than 37 million adults.3 And nearly 50 percent of men and women 65 and older have prediabetes, which means they’re on the fast track to developing the full-blown disease.
But here again, vitamin D can help keep you out of danger…
In a major meta-analysis published earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers looked at data involving vitamin D’s effect on more than 4,000 men and women with prediabetes.4
First, they randomly divided the at-risk men and women into two groups…
The first group served as the control. Subjects took nothing and did not alter their lifestyles.
The second group took a vitamin D supplement over a three-year period. (Subjects took either 100 mcg [4,000 IU] of vitamin D3 daily, 500 mcg (20,000 IU) weekly, or a vitamin D “analogue” called eldecalcitol, which is prescribed for osteoporosis.)
Then, after three years, researchers circled back to the men and women. It turns out, those who took the D supplements had a 15 percent lower risk of their condition progressing to Type 2 diabetes.
And that’s quite significant—because the highest daily dose taken by folks in this study is still FAR LOWER than what I recommend. So just imagine the results you can achieve with optimal dosing for your age and weight!
(Speaking of body weight, I should note that related new research shows that overweight men and women have a “blunted” response to vitamin D.5 So if you’re overweight and have prediabetes, making sure to take an adequate dose of D is even more important.)
Now, the last new piece of vitamin D evidence from this year involves a powerful benefit you might not know about…
Boost your mental health
A wealth of high-quality studies clearly show that vitamin D plays a HUGE role in supporting mental health. It’s especially good at helping ward off depression, which is a big problem for veterans.6
In fact, one study followed more than one million U.S. veterans and looked specifically at the impact of vitamin D supplementation on their mental health.7
To start, researchers tested all the veterans’ vitamin D blood levels and gathered data on supplementation. (About half the veterans received oral vitamin D supplements. The other half did not take them.)
Then, the researchers followed the veterans for eight years…
It turns out, veterans who took vitamin D were nearly 50 percent less likely to attempt suicide or self-harm during that time period compared to those who didn’t supplement.
Plus, those with the lowest blood levels at study outset gained the most protection.
In addition, black veterans saw the biggest protection. This makes sense, since darker-skinned individuals have a harder time generating their own vitamin D from the sun’s rays and overall tend to have lower vitamin D levels than lighter-skinned peers.
I find this study so powerful in several ways…
For one, veterans are 1.5 more likely to commit suicide than other adults. So it’s imperative to find safe, effective ways to help them.
Second, the findings add to the growing body of evidence showing that vitamin D is absolutely essential in preventing depression and other forms of mental illness.
And third, it explains why most of us naturally feel a boost in mental health during the summertime, when we tend to spend more time out in direct sunlight, and a decline during the dark days of winter.
How much do you need?
This month, as the summer sun hits its full strength, make sure to find time to safely bask in the warm rays and reap these tremendous health benefits. (See page 3 for how to stay safe in the intense August sun and heat.)
In addition, I still encourage you to take D3 in supplement form, to ensure you reach and maintain optimal levels of this powerful vitamin.
As to how much to take, ask your doctor to test your vitamin D 25 OH blood levels. I consider optimal levels to be between 80 and 100 ng/mL. But if you’re like the vast majority of people, your levels are probably much lower than that—and you’ll need at least 125 mcg (5,000 IU) of vitamin D3 per day to hit your target.
If your levels are deficient (below 30 ng/mL), or if repeat testing shows your levels aren’t budging, I suggest increasing your dose. I personally take 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D3 per day, and so do many of my patients. Doing so is perfectly safe with regular monitoring—even in the summer!
A new tool in the melanoma fight
While I encourage you to spend time in the sun this August, skin cancer is always a legitimate concern. Just remember that lathering yourself in chemical sunscreen isn’t the answer!8
In fact, in a cross-sectional study run by the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University hospital, researchers followed 498 Finnish adults with a high risk of developing skin cancer.
It turns out, those who took vitamin D regularly had a lower risk of having had melanoma in the past, currently having it, or developing it in the future.
So ditch the chemicals—and grab that supplement bottle instead!