Radiological health expert Daniel Hayes, Ph.D., of the New
York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests
that a form of vitamin
D could be one of our body's main protections against
damage from low levels of radiation. Writing in the International
Journal of Low Radiation, Hayes explains that calcitriol,
the active form of vitamin D, may protect us from background
radiation and could be used as a safe protective agent before
or after a low-level nuclear incident.
Biologists and pharmacologists who specialize in radiation
and health are keen to find an effective agent that could
be given by mouth, have few side effects and would protect
us against a suspected or impending nuclear event, whether
an accident, terrorist attack, or other incident.
In terms of protecting people from the long-term effects
of radiation, cancer formation would be the main focus. The
ideal agent would act by blocking DNA damage or by halting
the progression of damaged cells that might eventually grow
While a drug is yet to be found with such ideal radio-protective
properties, other researchers have demonstrated that certain
dietary supplements have at least some of the desired properties.
Hayes argues that vitamin D, and in particular its biologically
active form, could be the key ingredient in radiological protection.
"Our general understanding and appreciation of the multifaceted
protective actions of vitamin D have recently entered a new
era," says Hayes, "It is now becoming recognized that its
most active molecular form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, may
offer protection against a variety of radiation- and otherwise-induced
Hayes has reviewed the various biochemical mechanisms by
which vitamin D protects users_ from the low levels of natural
radiation released by the rocks on which we stand and the
skies above us. He points out that calcitriol is involved
in cell cycle regulation and control of proliferation, cellular
differentiation and communication between cells, as well as
programmed cell death (apoptosis and autophagy) and antiangiogenesis.
Calcitriol is the form of vitamin D that activates the body's
Vitamin D Receptor (VDR), which allows gene transcription
to take place and the activation of the innate immune response.
It is possible that several of the transcribed by the VDR
will help transcribe proteins that protect the body against
"Vitamin D by its preventive/ameliorating actions should
be given serious consideration as a protective agent against
sublethal radiation injury, and in particular that induced
by low-level radiation," concludes Hayes.