You probably already know about the many attributes of taking vitamin D3. Everyone should take enough to bring their vitamin D levels over 70 ng/ml.
Now British researchers at the London School of Medicine have come up with yet another reason to take vitamin D. It looks like maintaining an optimum level of vitamin D, all by itself, will add years to your life.
The authors of the new study looked at the vitamin D concentrations in the blood of 1,080 pairs of female twins between the ages of 18-79. At the same time, they examined the length of their telomeres.
I have discussed telomeres before. And if you are not already familiar with telomeres, you can read all about them on my website. In a nutshell, telomeres protect your DNA from being damaged over time. The longer they are, the longer your potential lifespan.
There are two things that are going to determine how long your telomeres are. One is your genetics. Some people are born with longer telomeres and others are not so lucky. There’s nothing you can do about that.
However, the other factor has to do with how quickly they shorten. You can do something about that. This is where lifestyle and nutrition come in. The better your lifestyle and nutrition, the less quickly your telomeres shorten.
The reason the researchers examined twins was that they are born with the same telomere length. So if their telomere length became different over time, it must be for lifestyle or nutritional reasons. What they discovered is just plain amazing!
As expected, in all cases, the older the twins were, the shorter their telomeres were. But here’s where it gets interesting.
The higher their vitamin D levels were, the longer the telomeres were. And the lower the vitamin D levels were, the shorter the telomeres were. And this was true for every age, even for the younger women. It was a direct correlation.
It was also independent of sunlight exposure, levels of physical activity, and whether or not the women used hormone replacement.
So what was the cause of the different telomere lengths in these sets of twins? It seems it was directly related to how much vitamin D each woman had in her diet. And the differences were very significant.
The researchers divided the women into three groups. The women who were in the top third had telomeres that were 107 base pairs longer than those in the lower third.
This is the equivalence of five more years of life.
The authors of the study say it best, “Our findings suggest that higher vitamin D concentrations, which are easily modifiable through nutritional supplementation, are associated with longer telomere length. This underscores the potentially beneficial effects of this hormone [vitamin D is a hormone] on aging and age-related diseases.”
What to do is pretty obvious: Take plenty of vitamin D. Most people need to take 5,000 IU daily to keep their levels high enough to have this effect.
Richards, J. Brent, Ana M. Valdes, Jeffrey P. Gardner, et al. “Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 86, no. 5, 1420-1425, November 2007.