Vitamin D May Reduce Cancer Deaths

On grey November days, we begin to long for the warmth of the sunshine that just a few short weeks ago we had in abundance.   Daylight not only helps prevent seasonal depression, but vitamin D may also significantly reduce the death rate for cancer, affecting the biology of cancerous tumours.

According to a recent Global News report, a large-scale study of more than 25,000 volunteers over the age of 50 found that vitamin D supplements reduced the chances of dying from cancer by 25 percent.  And participants who ate less than a serving and a half of fish each week but began consuming fish oil supplements reduced their risk for a heart attack by 40 percent.

The VITAL Study, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, provided volunteers with 2,000 international units of vitamin D per day and 1 gram of marine omega-3 fatty acids, or placebo supplements as part of a control group.  None of the participants had a history of cancer, heart attack or stroke.

Although more study on the effect these supplements have on diabetes, cognitive function, depression and autoimmune disease are planned in the upcoming months, the findings suggest that people who already take these two supplements have no reason to stop.  But before starting any new supplements, people may want to wait until researchers have more information about how vitamin D affects cardiovascular disease and the risk for falls and fractures.

If you are taking either of these supplements, researchers stress that adults should not be taking any higher doses of vitamin D or fish oil than what was used in the study.  The risks may outweigh the benefits by taking megadoses, including a possible increase in blood calcium levels with high doses of vitamin D.  Hypercalcemia can weaken bones, create kidney stones and interfere with how the heart and brain work.  Some research has also found a link between eating a lot of oily fish or taking a potent fish oil supplement with an increased risk for prostate cancer.

As always, check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting or stopping any medication or supplement.