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Health insurance in a pill?

Until now, vitamin D has mainly been considered a "bone strengthener", i.e. it protects against osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Now, however, a string of international studies have shown that a vitamin D deficiency may have previously unsuspected consequences: it may be as damaging to health as obesity, smoking or inactivity.

To put it another way, getting an adequate supply of vitamin D clearly guards against a number of different illnesses. It is reputed to protect against heart attacks and a range of cancers, as well as diabetes mellitus and even multiple sclerosis.

A recent study carried out by Johns Hopkins University in the USA, demonstrated that people with a vitamin D deficiency are 26% more likely to die from a heart attack. Meanwhile, Canadian researchers have discovered a link between cancer and vitamin D in women with breast cancer; patients with a vitamin D deficiency are noticeably more likely to suffer from the disease.

Until recently, vitamin C was considered the classic remedy for the common cold — but now doctors from Harvard University in the USA have proven that vitamin D is far more effective! Similarly, a study published in the USA at the beginning of March indicates that a vitamin D deficiency in young people is linked to an increased incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood).

In the United Kingdom, researchers at Oxford University are trying to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, which is based on a daily dose of vitamin D during pregnancy and childhood. While all this knowledge is still at the research stage, we should, as a precautionary measure, take note and make sure we have a high enough level of vitamin D in the body.

So, what is the optimum level of vitamin D in the blood?

Standard levels in the blood: 20–60 ng/ml

When the vitamin D level in the blood drops to 10–20 ng/ml, the body begins to metabolise bone tissue in order to keep the level of calcium in the blood constant. To protect against cancer, experts go so far as to recommend a minimum level of 25–30 ng/ml.

So how can we increase our vitamin D level?
  • Nutrition: herring, salmon, sardines, cod, mushrooms, cheese, butter and milk contain vitamin D.
  • Sunlight: in winter, especially in the northern latitudes, we suffer from a vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of sunlight. It is recommended that we take walks, and, if possible, with only half of our arms covered with clothing. This also applies at other times of the year for office workers and couch potatoes!
  • Vitamin D supplements: if lab results have proven that you have a vitamin D deficiency, it is, of course, sensible to treat the deficiency with medication and, at the same time, to introduce the appropriate lifestyle changes.
In the meantime, Dr. Erich Michos from Johns Hopkins University recommends that health-conscious people keep an eye on their vitamin D levels in much the same way as they do with their blood pressure or blood cholesterol levels.