People with low levels of vitamin D in their blood are twice as likely to die compared to those who have higher levels of the "sunshine vitamin", say Austrian researchers in a new report.
In this study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, more than 3,200 adults at risk for heart disease had their blood levels of vitamin D measured between 1997 and 2000.
After eight years, the researchers found that people with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were two times more likely to die from heart disease or any other cause when compared to those with higher levels of this vitamin.
Most doctors believe people should have between 20 to 30 nanograms per millilitre of vitamin D in their blood. The people with shortest life expectancy in this study had between 5 to 10 nanograms per millitre of vitamin D in their blood, says the study author.
Vitamin D is important for bone health as it helps the body absorb calcium. Recent studies have also indicated that vitamin D may offer protection against colorectal cancer, peripheral artery disease and high blood pressure.
Vitamin D is made in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. In Canada, due to lack of sun exposure, milk, soy beverages, margarine, butter, and some brands of orange juice are fortified with vitamin D. Other food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, or herring.
Health Canada's daily recommended intake for vitamin D ranges from 200 to 600 IU based on age, race, and exposure to sunlight. One 3-ounce serving of salmon provides 350 IU of vitamin D while supplements can provide up to 1000 IU.
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