- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not getting enough vitamin D can increase ones risk for colorectal cancer by as much as 31 percent, according to a new study by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Looking at data from nearly 13,000 people, the scientists also found the inverse to be true, higher levels of vitamin D in our body lowered the risk of developing the devastating cancer.

The protective benefits of higher concentrations of circulating vitamin D was higher for women (19 percent lower risk) than men (7 percent lower risk), the researchers found.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women and the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Harvard study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Thursday, also found that when researchers controlled for other risk factors related to colorectal cancer — like body mass index and physical activity — the association with vitamin D was “minimally affected.”

The researchers found that concentrations of vitamin D between 75 and 100 nm/l (nanomoles per liter) was sufficient to reap protective benefits against colorectal cancer. This supports earlier recommendations by the Endocrine Society that this amount has a positive effect on calcium, bone and muscle metabolism, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Vitamin D is most commonly absorbed into the body through eating foods rich in the nutrient, a short amount of sun exposure (between 10 and 15 minutes without protection) or dietary supplements.

Foods high in vitamin D come from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel and fish liver oils, according to the NIH. Most milk in the U.S. is fortified with the nutrient, and smaller amounts can be found in lean proteins such as beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.

An estimated 1 billion people don’t get enough vitamin D, about half the world’s population living in the northern hemisphere are at risk for deficiency, and darker-skinned people need twice as much sun exposure to reap the same benefits as lighter-skinned people.

In addition to being at greater risk for cancer, lack of vitamin D also increases risks for osteoporosis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and infectious diseases like tuberculosis and seasonal flu.

Yet there is debate in how scientists measure how much vitamin D intake equals the beneficial, circulating nutrient in the human system. When people absorb vitamin D, it is converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), and this is the protective agent.

The Harvard study, nonetheless, provides more evidence on how critical vitamin D is to health.

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