According to a new study, a daily vitamin D supplement can help increase longevity. In people with low blood levels of vitamin D, taking a supplement more than halved a person's risk of dying from any cause compared to someone who remained deficient.
Analyzing data on more than 10,000 patients, University of Kansas researchers found that 70 percent were deficient in vitamin D and they were at significantly higher risk for a variety of heart diseases.
D-deficiency also nearly doubled a person's likelihood of dying, whereas correcting the deficiency with supplements lowered their risk of death by 60 percent.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of illnesses, but few studies have demonstrated the reverse -- that supplements could prevent those outcomes.
The team reviewed data from 10,899 adults whose vitamin D serum levels had been tested, and found that more than 70 percent of the patients were below 30 ng/ml (or below 75 nmol/dl), the level many experts consider sufficient for good health.
After taking into account the patients' medical history, medications and other factors, the cardiologists found that people with insufficient levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to have diabetes, 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and about 30 percent more likely to suffer from cardiomyopathy -- a diseased heart muscle -- as people without D deficiency.
Overall, those who were deficient in D had a three-fold higher likelihood of dying from any cause than those who weren't deficient.
Moreover, when the team looked at people who took vitamin D supplements, their risk of death from any cause was about 60 percent lower than the rest of the patients, although the effect was strongest among those who were vitamin D deficient at the time they were tested.
The study does not prove that vitamin D is the cause of the effects seen -- other factors, like disease, could be responsible both for the differences in health and the differences in vitamin D levels, for instance.
Previous research has indicated that many North Americans don't have sufficient levels of vitamin D, however.
The fact that Canadians don't produce enough vitamin D in their skin from sunlight October through March prompted the Canadian Cancer Society in June 2007 to recommend adults take 1000 international units (IU ) of vitamin D daily in the fall and winter.
Older adults, people with dark skin, those who don't go outdoors often, and those who wear clothing that covers most of their skin should take the supplement year-round.
Some people may need a higher dose to maintain a sufficient blood level. The safe upper level of vitamin D is 4000 IU per day.
These new findings suggest that adults should consider getting their Vitamin D levels checked through a simple blood test and take vitamin D supplements.
In this study, vitamin D's benefit was seen in people who were deficient. If you have a low level, it makes sense to take a supplement and have a repeat blood test a few months later to make sure your level has increased to a sufficient level.
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