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HILLARY Swank may claim that her daily intake of 45 vitamin pills is what keeps her going, but those of us who are less famous are probably more moderate! We know that vitamins are essential to our health, but remain confused about which ones are the most important. Also, should we stick to natural sources or throw in a supplement or two? Here we share new research which lends more value to vitamins.


FOR decades Vitamin D has been linked to bone health. Also known as the sunshine drug, it is famous for helping our bones absorb calcium. But recent research shows that D plays a far greater role in keeping us healthy than we imagined: this vitamin is now associated with a range of disparate diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, stroke and schizophrenia.

In fact, scientists have mapped over 200 genes that the vitamin directly influences. Published in the journal Genome Research, this study links the vitamin D receptor to a number of genes that increase our susceptibility to autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, lupus, and cancers such as leukaemia and colorectal cancer.

Vitamin D levels have also been related to diabetes and heart disease. Middle aged and elderly people with high levels of the vitamin can reduce their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes by 43 per cent, according to researchers at the University of Warwick.

They reviewed 28 studies across a variety of ethnic groups including men and women and concluded that there is a significant association between high levels of vitamin D and a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (33 per cent compared to low levels of vitamin D) and type 2 diabetes (55 per cent reduction).

Diabetics with severe D deficiency are also 95 per cent more likely to die of complications, says a research published in the journal Diabetes Care.

"Vitamin D is a growth factor which promotes generative ability of pancreas to produce insulin. Deficiency means the pancreas won't produce as much insulin leading to high blood sugar. General fatigue, pain in calves and shinbone or hair loss can indicate vitamin D deficiency in diabetics which can be confirmed through blood serum test," says Dr Dheeraj Kapoor, consultant endocrinologist, Artemis Health Institute.