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June 6, 2017

Can Vitamin D fight aging?


“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”
― Andy Rooney

Aging is an unavoidable part of life, but does it have to start so quickly?  it’s painfully visible on the outside and we all lament the grey hairs and the smile lines, but on the inside it’s a more intricate story.

At the end of every chromosome is a ‘cap’ or a telomere that holds it together, shortening a little each time a cell divides and copies it’s own genetic material.  Age is a well-associated factor in telomere shortening, and with it comes an increased risk of genomic instability and cancer. Telomere shortening has also been linked to poor diet, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and inflammation.

So how do we stop unraveling? Enter my favourite hormone, Vitamin D. Sunshine for your cells.

It’s long been shown that Vitamin D is associated with a decreased risk of a number of cancers, and recently, in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that vitamin D may be just the thing you want if you’re trying to slow down telomere shortening and maintain the stability of your genes.

The study looked at the telomeres of 1542 younger people (20-39), 1136 people aged 40-59 and 1382 aged over 60. They found that vitamin D levels, measured as serum 25(OH)D of equal to or more than 50 nmol/L were optimal. Participants that had optimal or greater levels of vitamin D, had longer telomeres by o.13kbp, compared to those that had lower levels and independent of other lifestyle, sex or race/ethnicity factors.

“Because malignancy can be a consequence of genomic instability and telomere shortening, our findings of a positive association between serum 25(OH)D and LTL could be interpreted as a possible mechanism for the ‘protective role’ of vitamin D and as a justification for further RCTs as cancer as a primary outcome.” (Beilfuss et al. 2017)

So if you want to slow down the unraveling of aging, here are four action points:

  1. Ask your GP to check your serum 25-OHD levels. If they’re low ask your health professional about vitamin D supplementation.
  2. Find out about your VDR gene status. VDR is a vitamin D receptor gene and it influences how much effect serum vitamin D has on your cells. This can be done through a 23andMe test, and the Helix Explore report, or email me for a chat.
  3. Get some sunshine. It’s good for your soul, and your cells.
  4. Watch your diet and lifestyle. Are you sitting in front of a computer all day, under fluorescent lights, or are you getting up and moving outside for lunch?

Remember, you don’t need a lot of sunshine, but you do need some. In fact, regular, incidental sunshine (on skin – not all covered up), is best, according to the Cancer Council of Australia.


Reference: “Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D has a modest positive association with leukocyte telomere length in middle-aged US adults” Beilfuss, J, Camargo, C, Kamycheva E. J. Nutr. first published online February 8, 2017.