UPDATE: The list of diseases, illnesses and various other health maladies that have been scientifically linked to Vitamin D Deficiency now stands at 32. The updated version of the list is posted at the bottom of the article.
If you’ve been following the news at all for the past year, you’ve probably read that Vitamin D — Vitamin D3 specifically — helps boost the immune system. You’ve probably also read that increasing volumes of research seem to indicate a relationship between Vitamin D Deficiency and various diseases. What you may not have known is just how many different diseases and conditions are now being linked scientifically to deficient levels of this vital nutrient.
Before I go any further, I’d like to clarify the difference between Vitamin D3 and regular Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) is the form of the vitamin manufactured within the human body from sunlight. It is the most active and bioavailable form of the nutrient, which translated to better absorption within the body. The alternative form of the vitamin is known as D2, or Ergocalciferol.
Over the past several years, the general consensus of experts has been rapidly shifting in the direction of declaring Vitamin D2 a nutrient unfit for supplement form. This is due in part to health experts such as Nurse Practitioner and Health Columnist Pam Egan, who dared to challenge the conventional wisdom regarding Vitamin D at a time when the term “Vitamin D3″ was largely unheard of. Mrs. Egan has been distinguishing between the two forms of the vitamin in her published writings for most of the past decade, including a couple of years at the beginning when her peers wrote off her claims as speculative.
While scanning news headlines recently, I was simply awed by the sheer number of stories about the establishment of scientific links between Vitamin D3 Deficiency and disease. In light of this experience, I have assembled a partial list of the seemingly endless diseases and conditions for which the nutritional shortcoming is a contributing factor.
In no particular order, the following is a partial list of some of the diseases and conditions caused in part by Vitamin D Deficiency.
Diseases and Conditions Linked to Vitamin D3 Deficiency:
1. Parkinson’s Disease - Two new studies suggest that older people who are deficient in Vitamin D may be more likely to develop the neurological disorder. The first study was directed by Paul Knekt of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. David Llewellyn of Italy’s Exeter University spearheaded the second study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Source
2. Asthma - A new study conducted by the Harvard Medical School in Boston found that children low in Vitamin D3 were more likely to suffer an asthma attack requiring hospitalization than were children with healthy levels of the vitamin. Source
3. Chronic Pain - Two studies – one by Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, the other by the Mayo Clinic – appear to show a link between Vitamin D Deficiency and chronic pain. Source
4. Childhood Obesity - A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that Vitamin D deficient children are likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) than their better-nourished schoolmates. Source
5. Osteoporosis in Patients with IBD - A study by the American College of Gastroenterology indicates that Vitamin D deficient patients with IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, osteopenia and an overall higher rate of abnormal bone density. Source
6. Autoimmune Disorders - A study published in Genome Research indicates that people with insufficient Vitamin D are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease. Source
7. Arterial Stiffness – The Endocrine Society published a study this past summer linking Vitamin D Deficiency to arterial stiffness in black teens. Source
8. Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome – Researchers from Johns Hopkins University presented a study at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting establishing a link between Vitamin D Deficiency and Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, which is the medical precursor to diabetes. Source
9. Cancer, Heart Disease and More – The following study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition establishes the preventive benefits of Vitamin D3 with regard to various forms of cancer, heart disease and numerous others. Source
10. Rickets – This one has long-been established as fact by the medical and scientific communities, so I therefore feel no need to include specifics or cite sources. The link has been firmly established and repeatedly confirmed.
11. Inflammation – A 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirmed a link between Vitamin D Deficiency in otherwise healthy women and increased inflammation. Source
12. Autism - There is an increasing body of evidence that Vitamin D Deficiency is a contributing factor to autism. Dr. John Cannell, a psychiatrist and prominent vitamin D advocate, says flagging levels of the vitamin in pregnant women and young children could be the elusive factor explaining the rising rate of autism. Source
13. ADHD - Recent studies from the past several years increasingly point to a relationship between low levels of Vitamin D3 and an aggravation/intensification of the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. Source
14. Influenza & Swine Flu - Research presented by John Cannell, MD of the Vitamin D Council showed that Vitamin D3 is protective against seasonal flu. Further research performed by Norris Glick, MD and Ellie Campbell, DO, showed that Vitamin D3 helps prevent H1N1 Flu. Further, Dr. John Cannell showed that Vitamin D3 deficiency activates the influenza virus (the Flu). Source: Vitamin D3 and Influenza
15. Fibromyalgia - A study published in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association determined that Vitamin D3 deficiency is frequently seen in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Source
16. Hypertension & High Cholesterol - Evidence from numerous clinical and epidemiological studies have shown that increased dosages of Vitamin D3 can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol in patients deficient in the nutrient. Source
17. Depression - A scientific link between low Vitamin D3 levels and depression has been established following several recent studies confirming the relationship. According to one such study by scientists at Georgia State University: “The likelihood of having depression in persons with vitamin D deficiency is significantly higher compared to those with vitamin D sufficiency. Early diagnosis and intervention are paramount because coexistence of vitamin D deficiency and depression has serious negative consequences on health.” Source
18. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Vitamin D deficiency is closely associated with the chronic fatigue in patients with traumatic brain injury. Source
19. Tooth Decay - There is strong evidence indicating a relationship linking Vitamin D Deficiency to cavities and tooth decay. Dozens of studies were conducted in the 1930′s and 1940′s on this very subject. More than 90% of those studies concluded that supplementing children with vitamin D prevents cavities. Source
20. Lung Transplant Rejection - Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a significant increase in lung transplant rejection, according to research conducted at Loyola University Health System (LUHS). Source
Please keep in mind that this is only a partial list of the myriad of diseases and adverse conditions that are either caused in part by or aggravated by Vitamin D Deficiency, or that can largely be prevented with adequate sun exposure and/or supplemental intake. Check back as I will be posting a follow-up article sometime in the near future listing even more diseases for which this nutritional shortage is a contributing factor.
Updated List of Diseases Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Breast Cancer
- Skin Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- H1N1 Flu
- Various Autoimmune Disorders
- Lung Transplant Rejection
- Childhood Obesity
- Chronic Pain
- Tooth Loss
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Arterial Stiffness
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Seasonal Affective Disorder