Health Benefits of Vitamin D-3

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Close-up of vitamin D pills
Close-up of vitamin D pills (Image: Scharvik/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin D comes in two general forms: D-2 and D-3. They’re both absorbed efficiently and are nearly equally helpful for an array of health conditions. But it’s vitamin D-3 -- the type found in most supplements, foods and the kind you make with sun exposure -- that goes above and beyond the call to keep you healthy.

Stronger Bones

Both D-2 and D-3 are beneficial for strong bones. Either form of the vitamin allows calcium to absorb fully in your bones, making them sturdier. Vitamin D-2, however, isn’t likely to prevent fractures, the Linus Pauling Institute reports. Vitamin D-3 is better for reducing bone loss and preventing breaks, particularly among elderly adults who take at least 800 international units daily. For optimal skeletal protection and bone preservation, you’ll also need to have enough calcium in your diet -- 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams a day, depending on your age.

Improved Survival for Colon Cancer Patients

In 2008, researchers published a study proving vitamin D-3’s benefits for preventing colorectal cancer in the “Journal of Clinical Oncology.” Researchers observed the health and mortality of 304 participants, all of whom had colorectal cancer. After evaluating data, researchers found a common link among participants: Those who had the lowest levels of vitamin D-3 in their blood were more likely to pass away from colorectal cancer. Participants who maintained higher vitamin D-3 levels had a greater chance of surviving the illness. Researchers believed that the vitamin D had a role in preventing cancers from progressing further.

Breast Cancer Prevention

A research review that looked into the benefits of vitamin D-3 for possible breast cancer prevention was published in the 2007 edition of the “Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.” After evaluating studies, which included a total of 1,760 participants, researchers found that those who regularly took vitamin D-3 and had moderate exposure to direct sunlight had a 50 percent less incidence of breast cancer. Researchers noted that participants needed to take 2,000 international units of vitamin D-3 each day for maximum breast cancer protection. This large intake of vitamin D-3 raises your blood vitamin D levels as high as 52 nanograms per milliliter, the level believed to drastically decrease your breast cancer risk.

Proper Intakes

While researchers assess various doses of vitamin D-3 for health, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has a set dosage for all healthy adults -- 600 international units a day. This increases to 800 international units once you reach your 70s. Fatty fish, including salmon and sardines, as well as fortified milk, breakfast cereal and orange juice, are a few vitamin D-3-rich foods. Your body even makes some vitamin D-3 with sun exposure. You can safely take more than the recommendation for potential health benefits, but avoid consuming more than 4,000 international units daily from a combination of food and supplements. Excessive vitamin D causes your calcium level to surge, resulting in heart, blood vessel and kidney damage.

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