Sunshine Vitamin or Miracle Vitamin?

Our comprehensive report looks at the latest research and current thinking on the Vitamin D revolution

The Benefits of Vitamin D

The Benefits of Vitamin D:
Bone Health & Beyond

Written by John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P.,
and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

Interest in vitamin D has increased tremendously over the past decade. Some experts have gone so far as to proclaim that the world is currently in the midst of a vitamin D revolution.

Indeed, the body of research on vitamin D is enormous, and more studies are being published every month—sometimes confirming known benefits or suggesting new ones, sometimes finding no benefits, and in rare cases suggesting potential harms.

And while there is no question that vitamin D is an essential nutrient—and its role in bone health is well established—there are still so many unanswered questions:

  • Can vitamin D help prevent diseases other than osteoporosis and other bone diseases?
  • What is the impact of the controversial Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on recommended intakes of calcium and vitamin D?
  • How common is vitamin D deficiency in children and adults?
  • How does vitamin D deficiency compare to vitamin D insufficiency?
  • What is the optimal intake of vitamin D for overall good health?
  • Should you have your blood level of vitamin D measured even if you have no symptoms that would suggest a deficiency?
  • Should you take vitamin D supplements to raise blood levels considered to be too low? If so, which formulas are best?
  • How much vitamin D intake is too much?
  • Should more foods be fortified with vitamin D?

To help dispel some of the confusion and put the vitamin D debate into perspective, we asked John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter to share their insights in a provocative DIGITAL Special Report, The Benefits of Vitamin D: Bone Health & Beyond.

You may already know Dr. Swartzberg from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, where he is Chair of the Editorial Board and writes a regular column. Dr. Swartzberg is also Clinical Professor of Medicine in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

How to Make the Most of the Factors
That Affect Your Vitamin D Metabolism

The biochemistry of vitamin D is complex—even the terminology can be mind numbing. That's why Dr. Swartzberg begins The Benefits of Vitamin D with a concise look at vitamin D basics—its role in bone health, regulation of cell growth, immune function and reduction of inflammation.

In easy-to-understand layman's language, the Report explores key issues, including: the impact of skin color, age, season and time of day in your skin's production of vitamin D... how your genetic makeup influences blood levels of vitamin D... calciferol, ergocalciferol and other terms related to vitamin D. You'll learn about:

  • Dietary sources of vitamin D, including new D-enhanced mushrooms
  • The benefits and dangers of high loading doses of vitamin D supplements
  • A comparison of vitamin D3 and vitamin D2 found in supplements
  • Should you be tested for your vitamin D blood level—and if you are, what's the cut off for vitamin D deficiency
  • What you should know before you are tested—for example, how does seasonal variability affect results?
  • Symptoms and treatment of vitamin D deficiency
  • Pregnancy, breastfeeding and vitamin D—what new moms should know

Vitamin D and Disease: What the Research Shows

Can high doses of vitamin D prevent, treat or delay a wide variety of conditions and diseases affecting virtually every part of the body? This question gets to the heart of the vitamin D debate.

On one side of the debate are researchers who for years have been advocating higher intakes and blood levels of vitamin D and who feel that the latest IOM recommendations fell short. On the other side are those who fear that the vitamin D bandwagon has gotten far ahead of the research and who worry that it may crash, as did the bandwagons for antioxidant supplements when long-awaited clinical trials failed to find benefit and sometimes even suggested harm.

In this key chapter, the Report provides an in-depth look at current research and scientific evidence on vitamin D. The editors sift through hundreds of studies and articles in leading scientific journals to bring you cutting-edge insights on the relationship between vitamin D and many of the diseases that affect older adults. We encourage you to read this section carefully and share this valuable information with friends and family affected by these conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Falls
  • Breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Immune function
  • COPD
  • Obesity
  • Cognitive function and dementia
  • Osteoporosis and fractures
  • COPD
  • Dental health
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Depression
  • Psoriasis
  • Diabetes

Drawing on analysis and guidance from the landmark Institute of Medicine report, as well as leading vitamin D researchers and health organizations—the Endocrine Society, the Canadian Cancer Society, the National Osteoporosis Society and others—The Benefits of Vitamin D: Bone Health & Beyond consolidates the research, providing page after page of provocative argument and debate.

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