A newly published study is making headlines. "Vitamin D lowers the risk for cancer" it shouts. This "new" excitement comes from a research team out of the University of California in San Diego, headed by Dr. Cedric Garland. The thing is, Dr. Garland and his brother Frank have been saying this for 35 years. Finally, people are listening.
Many experts now agree that there's often a vitamin D deficiency in people with cancer. And they agree that vitamin D can control the growth of malignant cells. But would they tell us to go out into the sun more often? After all, our bodies make this essential vitamin from sunlight. No, that would upset dermatologists who insist exposure to the sun causes skin cancer.
Even with all the evidence, dermatologists – many of whom sell sunscreen products – keep telling us to avoid the sun like the plague.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are busy developing vitamin D analogs for cancer treatment. What's an analog? A molecule that looks like one made by Mother Nature, but is just a little different. The problem is, these differences can affect how well the molecule works and whether or not it has any side effects. Don't expect vitamin D "drugs" to work as well as sunlight. Or even as well as vitamin D supplements.
Dr. Garland's most recent study suggests that 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day is both safe and effective against cancer. Some strong multivitamins contain as much as 600 IU. If you get outdoors in the sun you can get the rest. However, I'm taking an extra 400 IU now. It's raining, and during the winter months, I know I'm not getting the extra vitamin D I need from the sun. You can find easy-to-take vitamin D tablets or capsules at your local health food store.
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Many people recommend getting additional vitamin D from cod liver oil supplements. However, I?m not a big fan of cod liver oil because it has too much vitamin A. Stick with vitamin D supplements and get your omega-3 oils from good, quality fish oils that say they have no contaminants.
You can also get extra vitamin D from your diet. Eggs and fish, including sardines, tuna, salmon, and cod, are naturally high in vitamin D. But be careful with foods fortified with vitamin D. Some are safer than others. Take orange juice, for instance. It's very safe in moderation.
But avoid increasing your consumption of milk, yoghurt, and cheeses as much as you can. The China Study, the largest analysis of risk factors for cancer, found that casein, the protein in dairy products, put people at the greatest risk for cancer. You can read about it in detail on my website.
I also think you should spend more time in the sun. That's one of the best places to get your vitamin D. Don't worry about getting cancer from the sun. It does happen, but primarily in those who regularly suffer skin damage from sunburns. There have been too many studies indicating that moderate sunlight is safe, as long as you don't burn.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Garland, C., et al. American Journal of Public Health, December 2005.
National Cancer Institute, 2005.
Ralph Moss, Cancer Decisions Newsletters, July-August 2005, www.cancerdecisions.com.
Fuchs, N.K. "Avoiding the Sun? Sunlight Actually Prevents Cancers," Women's Health Letter, April 2005.
Campbell, T.C. "The China Study," Benbella, 2005.