Vitamin D and Cancer: What you need to know

Vitamin D helps build healthy bones, but that’s not all it can do.

More recent data point to other potential benefits, including staving off dementia and protecting against certain cancers, such as colon and breast cancer.


But how strong is the evidence? In a new study published in JAMA, Joan Lappe, from the Creighton College of Nursing, and her colleagues randomly assigned about 2,300 women who had gone through menopause to take high doses of vitamin D or a placebo. They tracked the women for four years and look out for any cancer diagnoses.

There were no differences in cancer rates between the two groups, but Lappe says that doesn’t mean that vitamin D doesn’t have an effect on cancer. The women in the study tended to already have high levels of vitamin D in their blood—higher than about 80% of U.S. adults, she notes. Most of the women in the study, even in the placebo group, were taking vitamin D or calcium supplements to try to protect their bones and prevent falls and fractures. That means there may not be much difference in cancer outcomes between the group assigned placebo and the women taking the high doses of vitamin D supplements.

Animal studies suggest a number of different ways that vitamin D could be working against cancer. The vitamin stimulates the immune system, which in turn can be activated to target cancer cells; vitamin D may also fight inflammation and other processes that can trigger tumor growth. “I still think the composite of all the evidence together strongly suggests some effect of vitamin D on decreasing cancer risk,” Lappe says.

Not everyone is so encouraged, and many believe that more research on the topic is needed before vitamin D can be considered an anti-cancer weapon. Many cancers take years to develop, and even in the older population in the current study, a longer follow-up period may be necessary to see reliable trends in cancer rates.

What cancer doctors do agree upon, however, is the fact that vitamin D’s potential link to cancer is worth investigating. Studies involving tens of thousands of people who will be assigned high doses of vitamin D or placebo and followed for cancer and heart disease outcomes are ongoing, and their results will continue to add to knowledge about whether vitamin D can be used to combat cancer.

– Recipes That Contain Vitamin D –

Get vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D is a tricky, but crucial, vitamin. It’s a key nutrient for bone health, and it can help you steer clear of osteoporosis and bone thinning. However, it’s hard to get in your diet.

If you sit in the sun for a few minutes each day, your body will make vitamin D, but that can be tough depending on where you live, the season, whether you’re wearing sunscreen, and your natural skin pigment (darker skin needs more sun to make vitamin D).

You can get vitamin D in your diet, but few foods contain it naturally. Here are a few that can boost your intake.

Maple-Glazed Salmon

Salmon is one of several fatty fish that contains vitamin D. Some types of salmon have more than others, but 3 ounces of sockeye salmon contains 450 international units (IU) of vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health.

If you use sockeye in this recipe, each serving will give you about 900 IU of the bone-protecting vitamin.

That puts you above the recommended daily intake (600 IU after age 1 and 800 IU after age 70), but still far below the upper safe limit (4,000 IU for everyone aged 9 or older).

Very Chocolate Milk Shake

Cow’s milk is usually fortified with vitamin D, so one serving of this recipe will give you about 50 IU, as well as a good dose of calcium.

While ice cream is generally not fortified with vitamin D, you can find some brands of vitamin D–fortified frozen yogurt. Turkey Hill’s Vanilla Bean frozen yogurt contains 80 IU per serving.

You can also substitute vitamin D–fortified soy products like Silk Original Soymilk, which has 120 IU of vitamin D per cup.

Rich Mushroom Soup

This soup will provide you with vitamin D only if you buy specially grown mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Like humans, mushrooms will produce vitamin D when hit by UV rays, which is why vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin.

This recipe provides about 325 IU of vitamin D per serving if you use Dole’s vitamin D–containing portobello mushrooms in place of the sliced shiitake caps.

Scrambled Egg Burritos

To get vitamin D from an egg, you have to eat its yolk. Each egg yolk provides about 40 IU of vitamin D, about 7% of the recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU.

Although eggs don’t have that much vitamin D, every bit helps. If you opt for a vitamin D–fortified cereal, instead of eggs, for breakfast, you get roughly 40 IU of vitamin D (100 if you add half a cup of fortified milk).

Vanilla Bean Pudding

This pudding calls for 2.5 cups of milk, as well as two large egg yolks. It will give you about 55 IU of vitamin D per serving.

Added bonus: It’s simple to make and contains very little sodium.

Yogurt Berry Cups

Parfaits like these yogurt berry cups are easy to prepare and delicious to eat.

Just make sure you use vitamin D–fortified yogurt when putting them together. You can also use Greek yogurt, as long as the label says it’s fortified. Chobani’s Champions Greek yogurt (aimed at children) contains 80 IU in each 3.5-ounce serving.

Red Grape and Tuna Salad Pita

Canned tuna is easy to store and has a long shelf life, so it’s no surprise that it ranks pretty high in convenience as a natural vitamin D source. To get more vitamin D, use canned light tuna rather than albacore, which is sometimes called canned white tuna.

This recipe serves one person, so you will get about 150 IU of vitamin D from its 3 ounces of tuna.

Citrus Drop Cocktail

You can get a wee bit of vitamin D at cocktail hour, too. Use fortified orange juice, which delivers close to 25 IU of vitamin D in each drink.

Turn it into a virgin beverage by replacing the vodka and prosecco with a citrus-flavored sparkling water—you’ll also cut most of the calories.

Sicilian Tuna and White Bean Bruschetta

This bruschetta is easy to prepare, while still serving up vitamin D. Substitute canned light tuna to maximize its vitamin D potential.

If you use the recommended 7 ounces of tuna, this dish will pack about 60 IU of vitamin D per serving.

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