Vitamin D’s time in the sun

Every week seems to bring news about another benefit of vitamin D. The vitamin has been linked to heath benefits and risk reduction for conditions as diverse as arthritis and heart disease, depression and cancer.

Now you can add two more potential benefits for people who have higher levels of serum vitamin D in their blood.

A study in current issue of the Archives of Neurology found that individuals with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood were 67 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those with the lowest levels after adjusting for a host of factors from sex and age to alcohol consumption and smoking. Researchers from Finland tracked 3,173 men and women 50 to 79 years of age for 29 years. Among the participants were 50 cases of Parkinson’s disease. Blood samples taken and frozen at the beginning of the study were compared.

The researchers concluded that their “results are consistent with the suggestion that high vitamin D status provides protection against Parkinson’s disease.”

And in a separate study by European researchers published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, low levels of vitamin D were associated with “substantial cognitive decline” in an elderly population over a six-year period. These researchers studied 858 adults aged 65 and over. They found that the participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood – “severely serum 25 (OH) D deficient” – had a significantly higher risk of “substantial cognitive decline.”

These studies add to the growing body of evidence that vitamin D plays a huge role in a wide array of health issues. Now the debate centers on how to ensure we keep healthy levels with proponents advocating getting lots of sunshine and dermatologists insisting on other ways of getting the vitamin to avoid too much sun and the risk of skin cancer.

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