The sunshine vitamin seems to get a lot of attention, and with good reason. Vitamin D offers an array of health benefits—from reducing asthma symptoms to helping the body fight viral infections like the common flu. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says vitamin D can even reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, and at quite a significant rate.
From 120 women who had breast cancer and an equal number of controls, the researchers found those with the lowest vitamin D levels (less than 10ng/ml) had 6 times the risk of evasive breast cancer when compared to those with the highest levels of vitamin D (more than 20 ng/ml).
The researchers say women in Saudi Arabia may be more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency for a variety of reasons including modern indoor lifestyles, darker skin tones, more modest styles of dress, and unfortified foods.
“These results are not surprising” says Dr. Cedric Garland, of the UCSD Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. “There are numerous studies supporting that women need vitamin D levels exceeding the Institute of Medicine (IOM) guideline of 50 nmol/L (20 ng/ml) to help prevent breast cancer.”
In a press release, Dr. Garland cites another study that found raising a woman’s vitamin D levels to 40-60 ng/ml would prevent 58,000 new cases of breast cancer and three-fourths of deaths from these cancers in the U.S. and Canada.
While the benefits of vitamin D are very real, it’s important to note these studies are being circulated, and may have been funded by the Vitamin D Council, an organization that seeks to increase the consumption of vitamin D levels.
There are few foods that contain any significant amount of vitamin D. Those few foods include sardines, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, beef liver, and salmon. Most of our vitamin D comes from exposing the skin to sunlight, which can be tricky in colder months. While many foods in the U.S. are fortified with vitamin D, these foods are often highly processed cereal grains.
Keeping vitamin D levels high must be a concentrated effort, with real attention paid to the risks and benefits of your D sources. In addition to taking vitamin D supplementing, which is necessary during the winter months, check out these natural sources of vitamin D to boost your levels.