Besides animal sources like mackerel, sardines or eggs, vitamin D is extracted mostly from the sun, which is where it got its nickname, “sunshine vitamin”. Our skin reacts a certain way when touched by the sunlight, and that reaction produces vitamin D.
Vitamin D is known to be essential to bone heath, the protection against colds and it also fights against depression. But now, researchers discovered that the vitamin can also improve the body’s immune system and it helps it to fight off cancerous cells.
The study was conducted by a team from Harvard’s School of Public Health, and is the first study done on a large population to show a direct connection between levels of vitamin D and the body’s response to tumors. The results of the research could mean that in the future, doctors could determine one’s risk of cancer from their vitamin D levels.
Dr. Shuji Ogino said that lad results show that vitamin D helps the immune system by activating T cells, which are responsible for the identification and the fight against tumorous cells. From all the people who participated in the study, those with high doses of vitamin D in their bloodstream were exposed to the lowest risk of bowel cancer.
To determine if vitamin D is at all related to having lower cancer risk, the group of scientists analyzed the data from 170,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which are two long-term health research programs.
Researchers selected 318 people who suffered from colorectal cancer and 624 who were cancer-free. All of them had blood sampled drawn before any developed cancer, in the 1990’s. The team searched for the substance 25-hydroxyvitamin D (abbreviated 25(OH)D), which is produced in the liver after the intake of vitamin D.
This was the first ever study to determine the relation between the immune system’s response to potential dangerous cells and the effects of vitamin D. As Dr. Ogino explained, vitamin D interacts with the body in such a way that heightens its defense against tumors. He hopes that in the future we will be able to increase an individual’s vitamin D intake and thus her or his immune system, which in turn will protect against the risk of developing colon cancer.
Image Source: Telegraph