As many as 40% of Americans are estimated to be deficient in Vitamin D. This important nutrient is famously linked with bone health—and for good reason. Research shows that Vitamin D helps the body absorb and utilize calcium, which is an essential mineral for bone health.
But the benefits of this vitamin don’t stop there. In fact, new research reveals a surprising link between Vitamin D insufficiency and a leading type of cancer.
Deficiency in Vitamin D Associated with an Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer
In the June 2018 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a team of researchers determined that people with higher levels of Vitamin D in their blood had a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
According to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women. It’s also the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, affecting an estimated 1 out of every 20 people.
The study in question, titled “Circulating Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer Risk: An International Pooling Project of 17 Cohorts,” provided strong evidence for the cancer-protective effect of Vitamin D. They also found that people with the lowest levels of Vitamin D were 31% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
In addition to colorectal cancer, low levels of Vitamin D have also been associated with an increased risk of many other chronic health conditions, including multiple sclerosis, depression, and diabetes.
It’s Not Just About The Bones—More Surprising Benefits of Vitamin D
Cancer prevention? Sign us up! But this isn’t the only benefits of Vitamin D. The “sunshine vitamin” has also been shown to:
- Strengthen the immune system, which can help you fight off illness, injury, and disease
- Improves fetal development during pregnancy
- Optimizes healthy lung and heart function
- Helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels
As mentioned, Vitamin D also strengthens your bones, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and other skeletal health issues.
Final Thoughts: How Much and How to Get?
Whether you’re at risk for colorectal cancer, your health likely stands to benefit from adding more Vitamin D into your diet.
Perhaps the best way to get adequate Vitamin D is from healthy sun exposure—about 10-15 minutes around midday prior to donning sunscreen (this varies depending on factors such as time of year, geography, and skin color). You can also source Vitamin D from foods such as whole eggs, beef liver, cod liver oil, salmon, trout, and (if tolerable) dairy products such as fortified milk.
Vitamin D is also easy and affordable to take in a supplement. Indeed, supplementation is advised in many cases, since most adults don’t get enough levels of Vitamin D through their diet alone. Vitamin D supplementation is especially important for older people and people who live in Northern climates, where they have less sun exposure throughout the year.
How much do you need? The current recommended daily intake for Vitamin D is around 400–800 IU/day. However, many studies show that consuming higher amounts of Vitamin D—upwards of 2,000 to 4,000 IU per day or more—may not only be safe but optimal for certain health protective benefits, including that of colorectal cancer.
As always, it’s recommended to chat with your physician before starting or stopping any new medication or supplement. Even Vitamin D, which is largely recognized as safe and essential, can become dangerous if consumed at high levels.
But if you’re not currently taking Vitamin D, it may be time to consider adding it to your daily health routine—especially if you have risk factors for colorectal cancer.