The benefits of vitamin D are well-known: It keeps our bones and teeth strong, it helps to regulate our insulin levels (and thus aids in diabetes management) and it supports brain, lung and cardiovascular functions. But there's one way in which vitamin D may be more important than we thought.
According to a study conducted by The North American Menopause Society and published in Menopause, the journal of NAMS, women with low levels of vitamin D after menopause may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. That means those lovely doses of seaside sunshine (with SPF, please!) may actually protect you from breast cancer. Talk a bout a win-win.
In fact, the study, which involved more than 600 Brazilian women — 209 with breast cancer and 418 without — found even more encouraging news: "Vitamin D may play a role in controlling breast cancer cells or stopping them from growing," Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, the executive director of NAMS, tells Menopause.
Of course, the study's findings about vitamin D deficiencies are troubling since these deficiencies are currently at an all-time high according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Still, Pinkerton was quick to point out that additional research is necessary, largely because "published literature is inconsistent about the benefits of vitamin D levels [in] breast cancer," she wrote in Menopause. "This study and others suggest that higher levels of vitamin D in the body are associated with lowered breast cancer risk," Pinkerton says.
But regardless of their cancer-fighting properties, taking that long sunny walk outside (again, with SPF) and chowing down on vitamin-D-rich foods like salmon, tuna, mushrooms and eggs will only make you healthier, so go to town.