MEDICALLY REVIEWED

New Research Reveals: Daily Vitamin D Reduces Cancer Mortality by 12%

German Cancer Research Center researchers have found evidence that daily vitamin D consumption could potentially decrease the risk of cancer mortality by 12%. 

The study, published in the Ageing Research Reviews journal, indicated a significant protective effect. This was particularly seen in those aged 70 and above and those who had started taking vitamin D supplements before being diagnosed with cancer.

Key Findings of the Study

The research, which included data from 14 studies and around 105,000 participants, found a 12% reduction in cancer mortality in participants who consumed vitamin D3 daily.

The benefits of this daily intake were particularly significant in individuals aged 70 and older and those who began taking the supplement preventively before receiving a cancer diagnosis.

One important implication of these findings is that everyone aged 50 and older, including those who have never had cancer, might benefit from vitamin D supplementation if they are vitamin D insufficient. 

Implications and Limitations

While the study’s results are promising, it is critical to note that most of the included trials did not test vitamin D levels at the start, so the exact number of participants who were vitamin D deficient is unclear. Moreover, most trials allowed participants in the placebo group to self-medicate with vitamin D supplements.

Participants in the placebo group were allowed to take vitamin D supplements, complicating the assessment of the true impact of vitamin D supplementation on cancer mortality.

Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential component for overall human health. 

  • Calcium absorption: Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, promoting strong bones and teeth.
  • Immune system support: Adequate levels of vitamin D are vital for optimal immune system function, helping to protect against infections and diseases.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Vitamin D possesses anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammation throughout the body and contributing to overall well-being.
  • Muscle growth and performance: This nutrient supports normal muscle growth and performance, aiding in physical strength and agility.
  • Nervous system maintenance: Vitamin D plays a role in maintaining a healthy nervous system, contributing to proper nerve function and signalling.

Sources of Vitamin D

Food sources rich in vitamin D include specific types of seafood, egg yolks, beef liver, cod liver oil, and products fortified with vitamin D such as juices and dairy items. 

Vitamin D can be classified into two main forms: 

  1. Vitamin D2, mainly found in plant-based foods and supplements
  2. Vitamin D3, primarily obtained through sun exposure and eating certain meats. 

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D generally lies between 400 and 800 IU (10 to 20 micrograms), depending on a person’s age.

What are the Symptoms of a Vitamin D Deficiency?

A vitamin D deficiency is not always obvious, as symptoms can be subtle or even non-existent. However, some key indicators may point towards this condition. 

Persistent feelings of tiredness or fatigue can be a significant symptom, often accompanied by a general sense of weakness. Mood swings or feelings of depression may also manifest in individuals lacking vitamin D. Muscle pain and weakness, or frequent bone fractures, can be indicative, as vitamin D plays a critical role in bone health and muscle function. 

People with vitamin D deficiency may also suffer from lower immunity, making them more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Lastly, a more specific sign of deficiency can be chronic bone or back pain.

Most Common Questions about Vitamin D Intake

Q: Can I get vitamin D from the sun?

A: Yes, your body is designed to get most of its vitamin D from sun exposure on your skin. However, certain factors can affect how much vitamin D your body can produce from sunlight. These include geographical location, time of year, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and sunscreen.

Q: Can I take too much vitamin D?

A: While it’s difficult to overdose on vitamin D from sunlight or food, it is possible to take too much in supplements. This can lead to a condition called hypervitaminosis D. This can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, frequent urination, and kidney problems.

Q: What are the risks of vitamin D deficiency?

A: Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures. Severe vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, a disease characterised by a severely bow-legged appearance due to softening of the bones.

The research linking vitamin D to decreased cancer death risk is incredibly promising. More comprehensive studies are required to fully understand the nuances of this relationship. While vitamin D can be sourced from diet and sunlight, individual needs may vary. Supplements can play a crucial role, especially in older age groups or those with limited sun exposure. 

Always consult a healthcare professional when considering new supplements and strive for a balanced approach to health and wellness.

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