TUESDAY, June 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Higher levels of
vitamin D may protect people from an earlier death, particularly
from cancer and heart disease, suggests a new analysis of existing
And, the opposite may also be true -- low levels of vitamin D
may be linked to a higher risk of premature death.
But the researchers acknowledge that the review's findings
"People with low vitamin D die more frequently from heart disease and cancer, but it is not known if the low vitamin D is a cause of these diseases or just a byproduct of generally poor health," said study lead author Ben Schoettker, a post-doctoral scientist with the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany.
Still, the research published online June 17 in
BMJdoes hint at the possibility that vitamin D may benefit
people across genders, ages and Western countries, including the
United States. The findings are "compellingly consistent,"
Vitamin D is a hot topic in the medical world. Studies have both
supported and debunked its supposed powers as a booster of
lifespans. Researchers are looking forward to future studies that
they expect to be more definitive.
Vitamin D is nicknamed the sunshine vitamin because the body
produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. People also get
vitamin D through foods like eggs, milk, yogurt, tuna, salmon,
cereal and orange juice.
The current analysis only examined what happened to people with
various levels of vitamin D in their bodies. The studies included
in this analysis didn't go a step further to randomly assign
participants to take vitamin D supplements or an inactive placebo.
That kind of study would cost much more, Schoettker said.
The researchers examined eight studies from Europe and the
United States that together tracked more than 26,000 nonsmoking men
and women. They were all between ages 50 and 79. About 6,700
participants died during the time period of the studies, mostly of
heart disease or cancer.
Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were about 1.5 times
more likely than those with the highest levels to die from any
cause and from heart disease during the periods of the studies.
Those with low levels of vitamin D and a history of cancer were 1.7
times more likely to die of the disease. People who hadn't
previously had cancer saw no change in the risk of cancer death by
vitamin D levels.
"Very low vitamin D levels are mainly associated with higher age and lower physical activity," which could lead to less exposure to the sun, Schoettker noted.
On the other hand, "the reasons for very high vitamin D levels
are unknown," he added.
The researchers pointed out that vitamin D may not change levels
of risk for health problems and earlier deaths. It's possible that
levels of vitamin D reflect overall health. Low levels of vitamin D
may just be a sign of poor health rather than a cause of it,
according to the study.
It's not clear how vitamin D could help people live longer, but
it might have something to do with the way it acts like a hormone,
said Susan Mayne, chair of the department of chronic disease
epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health. Still, she said, the
science linking the vitamin to heart disease and cancer is in its
For now, both Mayne and Schoettker said people should follow the
recommendations of the Institute of Medicine regarding vitamin D.
Its 2010 report says most Americans and Canadians already get
enough vitamin D. It says nothing about whether people with heart
disease or cancer should take supplements, however.
For more about recommended daily amounts of vitamin D, try the
Institute of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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