Vitamin D a key to good health
By Courtney Bachar/Active Senior’s Digest
Carole Baggerly has been cancer free for the past 10 years and credits vitamin D maintaining her good health post cancer.
Baggerly, 73, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2005. She had a mastectomy along with chemotherapy and radiation to fight the cancer.
“It was an accelerated treatment that took place all within a max of about a six-month period,” she says, adding that the cancer was large and invasive.
“The treatment was barbaric. Cutting off a piece of my body and chemotherapy… it caused permanent damage,” she explains. “And I thought that there must be a better way.”
In 2007, Baggerly read a journal article that talked about vitamin D levels and how it could reduce breast cancer incidents by 50 per cent or more.
This was the start of a new journey for Baggerly. In 2007, she founded Grassroots Health, a California-based public health research organization dedicated to moving public health messages regarding vitamin D from science to practice.
The original idea for the organization came after she was invited to a symposium by Dr. Anthony Normal and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
“I sat for two days listening to reports about vitamin D and cancer,” she says.
During the meeting it was discussed that more research needed to be done.
“I was stunned,” Baggerly says of the statement. “I actually stood up in the audience and asked, ‘Where is your sense of urgency?’”
Baggerly says after the meeting, about 100 people were lined up to talk to her.
“They were researchers,” she says. “Their question was, ‘how can you help us get the word out?’ But at that moment I didn’t know what the message was, so my husband and I spent six months traveling the country to meet with researchers to find out what the message should be.
“We started with about 17 researchers, which has now grown to 42 researchers from around the world,” she says of the organization, adding that research projects and publications have skyrocketed.
Research shows many women in Canada and the United States are deficient in vitamin D, according to Baggerly. A person’s optimum vitamin D level should be between 40 and 60 ng/mL (or 5,000 to 10,000 international units (IU).
Studies that have been conducted through Baggerly’s organization have shown that an optimum level of vitamin D can decrease the risk of prostate cancer, decrease preterm births by more than 50 per cent, and decrease the number of incidents of falls in seniors.
In addition, there is also new information that shows a decrease is cognitive decline, which Baggerly says is very significant, as this relates to Alzheimer’s disease.
Optimum levels of vitamin D has also shown to have a significant effect on the immune system and the frequency of colds and flu, specifically in seniors, according to Baggerly.
And, one of the biggest things Baggerly has found through the studies relating to seniors is a decrease in pain.
“One thing we find with everyone that participates in these studies is that their pain is gone. I’m talking about muscular skeletal pain, arthritic pain, and fibromyalgia. Vitamin D can help all of these things significantly.”
Baggerly says the three primary sources of vitamin D in the northern hemisphere are supplements, sunshine and some foods, however, food is not an adequate source.
“Sunshine is how our bodies were meant to get vitamin D,” says Baggerly. “But we’ve changed our lifestyle. We’re industrial. We’re inside. If someone is up north, there is no vitamin D through the sun’s rays.”
In order to get vitamin D from the sun, Baggerly says a person needs to spend somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every single day with almost half of the body exposed, which she says isn’t possible, therefore, supplements are the most practical way of increase vitamin D levels.
As founder of Grassroots Health and the work being done by researchers, Baggerly is very active in the organization and still travels the world with her husband to continue learning what she can about vitamin D.
“A lot of very exciting research has come out,” she says. “We continue to have a lot of data that needs to be published.”
For more information on vitamin D, visit www.grassrootshealth.net.