A Link To Osteoporosis, Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancer,
Allergies, Autoimmune Conditions, & Depression
by Laura Power, MS, PhD, LDN
© November, 2005
Did you know that if you live in Washington DC that you cannot make vitamin D from sunlight 6
months out of the year? From October through March! New research shows that many people in
northern latitudes are deficient in Vitamin D, because sunlight is insufficient during the winters
to stimulate the production of vitamin D in skin. These deficiencies have been linked to higher
rates of certain cancers, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune conditions,
skin diseases, and mood disorders. The good news is that this is an easy and inexpensive
deficiency to correct. The National Cancer Institute has sponsored major research on vitamin D.
And in 2004 the National Institutes of Health held a conference on vitamin D, and this is what
Researchers have discovered that tropical diets have 10 times as much vitamin A and D as
northern diets, and that many tropical people are healthier and do not suffer from the “northern
diseases” listed above. This means that you can make simple inexpensive changes to your diet,
supplements and lifestyle that could prevent major diseases.
MAJOR RISK FACTORS
Are you at risk for vitamin D deficiency? Do you avoid sunshine? [You need sun exposure daily
in the summer between 11 am and 3 pm – without sunscreen or windows for 15 – 20 minutes.]
Do you wear a strong sun-block? Do you avoid dairy products? Do you have a low fat diet? Do
you avoid seafood? Are you pregnant or nursing? Do you use corticosteroids (oral, inhalers, or
creams)? Do you have very dark skin? [If so, you may need 6 times as much sun exposure
during the summer, and extra vitamin D during the winter.] Do you live in a very cloudy, foggy,
or polluted climate? Or above 30 degrees latitude? All these can increase your risk of vitamin D
Vitamin D levels have fallen in many populations around the world, particularly northern
climates. “In northern California 80% of clients tested during winter months demonstrate
vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency.”(1) This is primarily due to changes in diet and lifestyle.
Few people spend the day outdoors anymore, and most who do wear sun screen. Furthermore,
the traditional daily dose of cod liver oil went out of fashion 60 years ago (although it is now
making a resurgence). As a result vitamin D deficiency diseases have been on the rise again.
HOW VITAMIN “D” WORKS
We get our vitamin D from both sun exposure and certain foods. Sunlight at certain
wavelengths stimulates our skin to make vitamin D out of cholesterol. But the angle of the sun
during winter above 30 degrees latitude is simply insufficient to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is
also in certain foods, including fish oils and dairy products. Vitamin D in its metabolized form is
actually a hormone. It works in the skin, kidneys, muscles, heart, and in 30 different cell types.
Vitamin D has 3 major functions. (1) It helps us absorb, transport and metabolize essential
minerals, particularly: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, which perform vital functions
for bones and enzymes. (2) Vitamin D promotes proper cell development and differentiation.
For example: it can convert stem cells into bone cells. (3) And it helps regulate the immune
system (thus preventing cancers).
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Children need between 400 units and 800 units / day of vitamin D, depending on their age and
size. Teens and adults need about 1000 units/day. Those over the age of 50 need about 2000
Do you have any of these symptoms or diseases? Vitamin D deficiency has now been shown to
relate to the following diseases: Adrenal insufficiency, allergies, Alzheimer’s Disease,
autoimmune disorders (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), cancers (of the
colon, breast, skin, and prostate), dental problems (misaligned teeth and cavities), diabetes
(Types 1 + 2), increased fractures in the elderly, gluten intolerance, heart disease, hypertension,
infertility, learning disorders, lectin intolerance (a type of allergen), myopia, obesity, osteopenia,
osteoporosis, osteomalacia, Parkinson’s Disease, PMS, psoriasis, rickets, seasonal depression
(SAD), sexual dysfunction, and Syndrome X (insulin resistance). Let’s look at some of these in
Vitamin D is essential to the absorption and transport of major minerals involved in bone
metabolism. These include: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Vitamin D deficiencies
have been associated with several bone diseases. These include: osteopenia (low bone minerals),
osteoporosis (thinning bone), and osteomalacia (adult rickets). vitamin D deficiency has also
been associated with increased fractures in the elderly, which often result in major surgery and
too frequently in death.
Vitamin D modulates the immune system. It reduces cell proliferation, induces cancer cell
death, and inhibits metastasis. Several double-blind controlled studies sponsored by the
National Cancer Institute have shown remarkable results with vitamin D therapy. By increasing
the intake of vitamin D from the old 400 i.u. per day to 2000 i.u. per day, they were able to
reduce the rates of colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer by 50%! Higher doses were
used with black male patients (3000 – 4000 i.u. / day), which reduced the rate of prostate
cancer by 90%. What a bargain for $5-7 / month!
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Vitamin D has been shown to lower blood pressure by two mechanisms. Vitamin D inhibits
rennin synthesis in the kidneys; this is a substance that increases blood pressure. Vitamin D
also helps absorb magnesium; magnesium deficiency is a leading cause of high blood pressure
and heart disease.
Vitamin D deficiency has been related to diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is an
autoimmune disorder, which destroys the beta cells of the pancreas. Vitamin D has been
effective in down-regulating many autoimmune disorders. Type 2 diabetes involves low insulin
levels. This is frequently related to zinc deficiency, since zinc is part of the insulin molecule.
And zinc is dependent on vitamin D. Insulin resistance is different. This involves both high
insulin and high glucose. This problem is at the receptor site, and often involves deficiencies of
5 different trace minerals, 5 B vitamins, and alpha lipoic acid.
AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES & ALLERGIES
Vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
These are diseases where the immune system overreacts and attacks our own cells. Because
vitamin D therapy regulates the immune system, it has been shown to improve many of these
diseases. These include: Diabetes 1, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Allergies, Rheumatoid
Arthritis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Vitamin D may also down-regulate allergy
MIND & MOOD
Vitamin D is also a crucial factor in mental and emotional states. Deficiencies have been
associated with: SAD (seasonal affective disorder, depression), PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome),
mood swings, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
Certain skin diseases or conditions have also been associated with vitamin D deficiency. These
include: skin cancers, psoriasis, burns and poor healing. The latter two skin conditions are likely
related to zinc deficiency, which is an important factor in skin healing, and is dependent on
Testing for vitamin D is easy. Any major laboratory can do a blood test for 25-hydroxy-vitamin
D. Deficient = < 30 ng/ml. Optimal = 40 – 60 ng/ml. Toxic > 150 ng/ml. In locations
greater than 30° latitude, north or south, values are naturally higher at the end of summer and
early fall and lower in winter and spring.
Sunlight: Get 15-20 minutes of sunlight in the middle of the day (10-2 in winter) (11-3
summer) without sunscreen. These are the only times vitamin D production can be stimulated
in the skin. If you live above 30 degrees latitude, you will not make vitamin D from winter
Foods: Cod liver oil, Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna in oil [but mackerel & tuna may have mercury],
Sardines in oil, Herring, Milk, Cheese, Butter, Eggs, Beef Liver, Mushrooms.
Supplements: Take 800 – 1000 units of Vitamin D per day in the winter. If you are over 50
years of age, you probably need 2000 units vitamin D per day. Take more only if you have
testing that supports a higher usage.
VITAMIN D TOXICITY
Levels greater than 70 ng/ml have been associated with bone loss, heart disease, and other soft
tissue calcification. Chronic intake of excessive amounts of vitamin D may cause irreversible
Do not take vitamin D if you have Crohn’s Disease or Sarcoid Cancers – these conditions already
make extra vitamin D.
Some useful links for further reading: