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Vitamin D - one of Nature's greatest medicines

  2010-03-16
 

The truth about Vitamin D; why we need it - and how to get it for free

There has been a great deal of research carried out recently into the benefits of vitamin D. It is now claimed that people with high levels of vitamin D almost halve their risk of developing heart disease or diabetes and It has also been confirmed that those people with lowest levels of this vitamin in their blood are at greater risk of a range of serious disorders.

These findings come from a review of 28 existing studies involving almost 100,000 people which looked at vitamin D levels among the middle-aged and elderly.

The research team from Warwick Medical School discovered a 43 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome among people with high levels of vitamin D.

US researchers last year claimed vitamin D 'deficiency' may be to blame for 600,000 cancer cases worldwide each year, particularly in northern European countries where sun exposure levels are relatively low.

The latest study published in the medical journal Maturitas found those with high levels of vitamin D were 33 per cent less at risk of having cardiovascular disease compared to those with low levels. In addition, there was a 55 per cent reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes and the risk of metabolic syndrome was halved.

One of the authors, Dr Johanna Parker, said: 'We recommend people eat a healthy diet with two to three portions of oily fish a week and daily five portions of fruit and vegetables.

Dr Oscar Franco, assistant professor in public health at Warwick Medical School, said: 'We found that high levels of vitamin D among middle-age and elderly populations are associated with a substantial decrease in cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

'Here in UK, people should expose themselves for 30 minutes twice a week during the summer - this means exposing the face and arms with no sunscreen (although not, of course, during the hottest part of the day). This would provide the body with adequate vitamin D.' Unfortunately, north of Birmingham, the sun is not strong enough to stimulate the production of vitamin D during the winter months - which is when a supplement would be most valuable in order to maintain optimum vitamin D levels.

Although most people living in northern Europe are not sufficiently lacking in vitamin D to be classified as deficient, some experts believe blood levels should be higher to optimise health.

The mechanism by which vitamin D works is only partly understood, but it has been shown to slow the rate of growth of cancer cells and may boost the function of blood vessels and the immune system.

Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms from health food outlets; vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Researchers recommend supplementation with vitamin D3 because it is more active and effective.

Mineral of the month - Copper

Copper is a necessary part of the body's ability to produce haemoglobin; the substance in the blood responsible for carrying oxygen. It also works together with iron in the formation of red blood cells. Without copper, the body could not complete the process of building the bones that make up the skeletal system. It is one of the minerals the body relies on to help keep bones strong. Strong bones are less likely to break, fracture or become brittle. Strong bones will delay the development of osteoporosis.

The mineral copper, also plays an important role in the formation of two components that are vital to healthy skin. These two elements are called elastin and collagen. Collagen is present in the skin's connective tissues and it plays a crucial role in the body's ability to quickly and thoroughly heal all wounds. Elastin is what gives skin the ability to stretch and spring back into shape. It is also what helps delay the onset of wrinkles.

Copper is one of the ingredients found in the hair's pigmentation. Pigmentation is what gives hair colour and sheen. In addition, copper must be present, in order for the body to make the neurotransmitter, noradrenaline.

This mineral is also important for lowering the risks associated with the onset of heart disease including heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke. It gives the immune system a boost and finally, it is involved in the processes that manufacture important anti-oxidant enzymes.

Copper Sources

Sources of copper include green vegetables, prunes, beans, peas, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, beef, liver, mackerel, crabmeat, lobster, oysters, nuts (particularly walnuts, peanuts, brazil nuts and cashews), pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds. Breads and cereals made from whole grain and barley also prove good sources of copper.

The body is able to store this mineral for later use. Because of this, it is not necessary to rely on a daily dietary intake. However there is a recommended daily allowance for copper this is 1.2 milligrams.

Copper Deficiency

The likelihood of developing copper deficiency is practically non existent although not totally unheard of. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the body maintains around 100 to 500 mg., so it is unusual for this mineral to run low. Another reason has to do with the fact that most people get plenty of copper simply by drinking water. Before PVC piping came along, almost all pipes used to carry water were made from copper. With copper pipes, trace amounts of copper regularly leach into the water system.

When the body does experience a copper deficiency there is usually a corresponding deficiency of iron. That is why anaemia is one of the symptoms. Severe anorexia or starvation, and serious kidney problems, which again are very rare, can all contribute towards a copper deficiency. Other symptoms include dry skin and problems with hair.