Readers sometimes remark about how often I reference vitamin D. And rightly so. But I go with the science. And when it comes to all the new research on vitamins, it seems as though there is vitamin D…and then there is everything else.
For example, a new study found a connection between vitamin D supplementation and longer telomere length. Telomeres are the “tags” at the end of chromosomes. And research shows the longer your telomeres, the longer your lifespan. I’ll tell you all about that important study in a moment. But first, let’s back up…
It’s been a big week for vitamin D. On Tuesday, I reported on a new study showing that vitamin D affects the regulation of nearly 400 genes that all add up to increased longevity.
And then, just yesterday, I reported on a huge, new finding by Dr. Cedric Garland that men and women with higher vitamin D levels lower their overall risk of cancer by as much as 83 percent.
Natural approaches ignored and suppressed
Of course, news about natural approaches — no matter how big — rarely makes it into the national press. To use Dr. Garland’s words, it’s a “scandal” that the importance of vitamin D in preventing all cancers is not widely-known and heralded.
Back in 2006 I gave the keynote address at the annual Johns Hopkins University Continuing Medical Education (CME) course on complementary/alternative and natural medicine. I’ll never forget, Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University spoke after me. He reported on the critical importance of vitamin D to more than 400 gene functions.
I find it interesting that over the past 200 years, much of the investigations into the health effects of sunlight, and then vitamin D (once it was discovered in the 1920s), came out of Boston. I suppose it makes sense, as Boston was a northernmost center of medical research during the early history of the U.S. Plus, due to lower levels of sunlight, they had the opportunity to observe the effects of inadequate sunlight and UV radiation, as well as the benefits of light exposure.
In Dr. Holick’s Boston University speech, he described how vitamin D acts like a hormone as well as a micronutrient in the body. Unfortunately, 10 years later, mainstream medical recommendations and controversies about vitamin D intakes and levels still remain focused only on its role in building and maintaining healthy bones.
The role of vitamin D throughout the body is so important, the human skin specializes in using photosynthesis to make the active compound. And the liver specializes in storing it to ensure a constant, adequate supply.
And now, it appears the importance of this nutrient extends beyond general health to your overall lifespan.
The “shoelace” secret to slowing down the aging process
The new research study I mentioned above focused on the effect of vitamin D supplementation and telomeres.
Again, telomeres are the “tags” at the end of chromosomes that help keep the chromosomes stable. Made up of nucleic acids (thymine, adenine, and guanine), they work in a similar way plastic caps help protect the ends of shoelaces from fraying.
Telomeres also tell us a lot about your cellular age…
You see, the cells in your body continually divide and replace themselves. So theoretically, you should always have “young” cells in your tissues, as long as they are properly nourished, energized and hydrated.
But there is one catch.
When new cells form in chromosomes, the telomeres don’t duplicate. Instead, the telomeres get shorter with each new cell division. And over a lifetime, cells only undergo a finite number of divisions. Eventually, the telomeres become so short, cell division comes to a halt. No more new, young, healthy cells to replace the old.
Eventually, the cells enter a phase where they accumulate imperfections, lose their functions, and simply die. And that’s a big factor in the aging process.
So it’s no wonder that telomere shortening has been a focus of aging research at the genetic and cellular levels.
New approach to healthy aging AND Type II diabetes
The new study found that vitamin D supplementation of 4,000 IU per day increased telomerase activity in Hispanic men and women with Type II diabetes. The authors concluded that vitamin D supplementation may also prevent or delay progression of Type II diabetes.
Previous studies show Hispanics have shorter telomere lengths and a higher risk of both Type II diabetes and vitamin D deficiency in the first place compared to whites.
So vitamin D supplementation appears to offer a simple way to eliminate health disparities among population groups.
Actually, the latest government statistics show that Hispanics had the largest increases in longevity of any population group in recent years.
Unfortunately, the mainstream minions still debate whether or not doctors should encourage vitamin D supplementation for their patients. In the Boston area, which has been at the forefront of much medical research, including vitamin D research, primary care doctors have been recommending vitamin D supplements for years. The rest of the country needs to catch up.
Make sure to get your daily vitamin D supplement as the days get shorter through fall and winter. I recommend supplementing with 10,000 IU per day year-round for optimal health.
“Effect of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Telomerase Activity in Hispanics with Type 2 Diabetes,” The FASEB Journal; 30 (1) Supplement 1156.1