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SALT LAKE CITY-- Vitamin D has suddenly come out of obscurity, assuming a role in our immune system that from all preliminary evidence is really quite surprising. On Friday, the Salt Lake-based Thrasher Fund held a special meeting in which one of the country's key researchers presented some of her findings.
We know vitamin D builds strong bones, also that our bodies make 90 percent of the vitamin when we go out in the sun. But only now are we beginning to understand how much more this hormone in the family of vitamins can stimulate.
Carol Wagner, M.D., with the Medical University of South Carolina, said, "Vitamin D plays a role in the innate immune system, which is a very primitive, a very important part of our immune system."
Dr. Wagner's research team followed more than 1,000 pregnant women, and though some data is still locked up as part of a continuing double blind study, the benefits of giving 400 units of vitamin D to mothers have far reaching implications for their babies.
And it's not just babies. Dosages for adults, which are even higher, pay off as well.
She said."Apparently our worries about the dosage of vitamin D have been a misconception. In this D-3 formula, at 1,000 units, that's still very, very low compared to what you get in the sun in only 15 minutes." She added, "When you go out into the sun in the summertime in a bathing suit, your generate between 10,000 and 20,000 international units of vitamin D."
Infants, then later when they become adults, and even adults themselves, experience benefits. Vitamin D might just lower the risk of diabetes, some forms of childhood cancers, prostate and colon cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In a very large Department of Defense study, Dr. Wagner says it, "Significantly protected against developing multiple sclerosis decades later."
"D" is certainly not a magic pill, but it appears to do a lot more than we thought it could.
The Thrasher Research Fund, which in part financed Wagner's research, is administered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fund, which began more than 30 years ago, has supported more than 500 pediatric research grants.