You may have heard that vitamin D has many health benefits, specifically that it aids in the absorption of calcium in the body. Now, there is evidence that vitamin D holds even more benefits than originally thought. Researchers have found that certain cancers and diseases, as well as allergies in children, can be prevented with vitamin D. However, it must be taken in higher doses than the daily recommended intake (DRI) for vitamin D to get the full effect for anti-cancer benefits.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Diego found that adults who consumed 4,000 to 8,000 IU of vitamin D daily had sufficient levels of vitamin D metabolites in their blood. Vitamin D metabolites, when present in higher quantities, may reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and type-1 diabetes, the researchers believe. There was no significant effect on cancer prevention when vitamin D was taken in doses lower than 4,000 IU, however. At present, the DRI for vitamin D is 600 IU for adults in the United States. The upper tolerable limit for vitamin D, according to the Institute of Medicine, is 4,000 IU daily, which is the minimum amount given for cancer prevention.

Despite this discepancy with the DRI of vitamin D, researchers say that higher doses are not harmful and may only be beneficial. It is still important for people to contact their doctor if they are thinking about increasing their vitamin D intake.

In other vitamin D news, a study in last month’s edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who had lower levels of vitamin D in their bodies were more apt to developing both environmental and food allergies. In fact, children with low vitamin D levels were sensitive to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, and were 2.4 times as likely to have a peanut allergy than children who had sufficient levels of vitamin D.

The two studies are not related, but both point out the significance of vitamin D in the diet. More information will have to be obtained, but for now it is safe to say that vitamin D has many more health benefits than most people are aware of.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2011 (online 3/7/11)