Sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D. The human body covers up to 90 percent of its needs. © Michael Vogl/dpa
Cancer patients will be eagerly following this study: Scientists have statistically proven that vitamin D increases the chance of surviving the disease.
Heidelberg/Munich – Those who take vitamin D daily have a better chance of survival in the event of cancer. The risk of mortality is reduced by twelve percent. This is the conclusion reached by scientists at the German Cancer Research Center after evaluating high-quality studies. A cancer researcher explains the spectacular results.
Vitamin D may increase the chance of survival in cancer
One in seven Germans has a pronounced vitamin D deficiency, or more precisely, around 15 percent of adults are affected. In cancer patients, vitamin D blood levels are particularly often below the threshold value. In a study, scientists found that 59 percent of the colorectal cancer patients examined had too little vitamin D in their blood. These patients also had an unfavorable prognosis.
Many people fear a cancer diagnosis. Especially early warning signs should be known. In men, there are very specific ones. And there are also very specific symptoms in women.
Conversely, a daily intake of vitamin D increases the chance of survival in the event of cancer – from a purely statistical point of view. This was the result of an evaluation of 14 studies of the highest quality carried out by scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) based in Heidelberg. Data from almost 105,000 study participants were included.
Study proves: Daily intake of vitamin D in low doses shows best effect
The spectacular result: "Vitamin D probably does not protect against developing cancer. But the probability of dying from it decreases statistically by twelve percent," DKFZ epidemiologist Ben Schöttker told our newspaper.
During the study analysis of the DKFZ scientists, it also became clear that the daily intake in low doses between 400 and 4000 international units was decisive for the better chances of survival. "Most studies used the dosages of between 800 and 2000 international units of vitamin D3 per day, which are still common in practice today," explains Schöttker. On the other hand, mortality did not decrease with rare high single doses. In these study groups, participants had received between 60,000 and 120,000 international units of vitamin D3 once a month or less frequently.
Vitamin D inhibits cancer growth
To explain: International unit (abbreviation i. E.) is a unit of measurement for the effect of a medical substance. It is used for some vitamins, but also for certain hormones, vaccines and antibiotics.
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Why daily vitamin D intake reduces mortality from cancer needs to be researched in more detail. Scientists like Schöttker see a connection with reactions of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D produces a hormone with the scientific name 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. "It can probably inhibit tumor growth," says Schöttker. Against this background, the scientist thinks it makes sense for people over 50 in particular to have their vitamin D level in their blood checked by their family doctor and compensate for a possible deficiency.
Have your own vitamin D level checked more often by your family doctor
The big problem with this is that a vitamin D deficiency does not cause any clearly identifiable symptoms. This is one of the reasons why many people are unaware of their low vitamin D levels in their blood. "Before the age of 50, the risk of developing cancer is still comparatively low, which is why the positive effect of vitamin D intake is more likely to be expected for the older age group," says Schöttker.
The DKFZ study showed that study participants over the age of 70 in particular benefited from vitamin D intake. Studies from Germany have shown that just over half of adults are at least slightly below the threshold for optimal vitamin D levels in their blood.
Because vitamin D levels depend primarily on direct sunlight on the skin, even more people are affected in winter than in summer. Through the normal diet, the body absorbs only a small part of vitamin D.
This is how vitamin D works in our body
In advertising, vitamin D is often praised as an all-rounder. The fact is that the forms vitamin D 2 and vitamin D 3 play a key role in important metabolic processes in the body. This is how vitamin D ensures healthy bones. It is also involved in the formation of proteins and the control of a large number of genes. Studies suggest that it could potentially help prevent high blood pressure and diabetes. However, there is no evidence of this yet, explains the Robert Koch Institute. The health authority provides answers to common questions about vitamin D.
How does vitamin D enter the body?
As a rule, the body produces 80 to 90 percent of the vitamin itself in the skin – with the help of sunlight, or more precisely UVB radiation. With an estimated proportion of ten to 20 percent, nutrition contributes only a relatively small proportion to the vitamin D supply.
Nutrition is only a small part of the production
What are the consequences of a vitamin D deficiency?
A softening and deformation of the bones is feared. This results in severe bone pain, muscle weakness and loss of strength, among other things. The development of osteoporosis is also sometimes promoted by a vitamin D deficiency - especially in old age. In children, serious disorders of bone growth, as well as permanent deformations of the skeleton, can occur. In addition, scientists have observed an increased susceptibility to infections in people with low vitamin D levels.
How do you recognize a vitamin D level that is too low?
Clarity can only be achieved by checking the blood values by the doctor. Often, those affected do not notice their low vitamin D levels because the symptoms of a deficiency are non-specific. These include an increased susceptibility to infections, muscle weakness, muscle and limb pain. Discomfort, for example in the lips and fingers, muscle cramps and migraines can also occur, as well as tiredness and fatigue. It is possible that a vitamin D deficiency can also promote depression.
Which foods contain a lot of vitamin D?
Fatty sea fish, such as herring, mackerel or salmon, certain edible mushrooms, some offal, egg yolks and specially fortified foods such as margarine are rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements are only advisable after consultation with the doctor
How can you fill your vitamin D stores?
In Germany, the body's own production is only possible from March to October when spent outdoors. During this time, the body can also build up vitamin D reserves in fat and muscle tissue and fall back on them in the winter months. That's why experts recommend exposing your face, hands and arms to the sun two to three times a week in summer – but only briefly to avoid sunburn with serious consequences such as skin cancer. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the rule of thumb is that half the time that the skin would be able to cope with without sunburn is enough to start vitamin D production. If you go out in the sun for a longer period of time, you should definitely apply a high sun protection factor thoroughly.
But even in summer, natural vitamin D production is not guaranteed. In bad weather with many clouds, the necessary UVB radiation can be reduced by up to 90 percent. Dietary supplements can compensate for a deficiency. However, it only makes sense to take it if you do not get enough vitamin D through stays in the sun and your diet. Therefore, you should definitely have your vitamin D level in your blood checked by your family doctor beforehand to avoid an overdose.
Is too much vitamin D harmful?
Yes. If you take too much vitamin D, you risk an increased calcium level. This so-called hypercalcemia can lead to nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, vomiting and, in severe cases, kidney damage, cardiac arrhythmias, loss of consciousness and even death, warns the Robert Koch Institute. Because the human body can store vitamin D, a creeping overdose is also possible. (A. Beez)
In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people die every year as a result of cancer. There are certain forms of cancer that are particularly dangerous and usually fatal.