Low levels of vitamin D and high levels of parathyroid hormone are associated with increased mortality in older adults, according to a new study from Wake Forest School of Medicine. The study also indicates that the potential impact of remediating low vitamin D levels is greater in African Americans than Caucasians because vitamin D insufficiency is more common in African Americans.
For the past several years, there has been considerable interest in the role vitamin D plays in improving health and preventing disease. Low levels of vitamin D have been directly associated with various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Most studies regarding the health effects of low vitamin D levels have been conducted on persons of European origin, but the current study examines the relationship between vitamin D and mortality in blacks and whites.
The researchers observed vitamin D insufficiency (defined as blood levels <75 nmol/L), in one third of study participants. This was associated with nearly a 50 percent increase in the mortality rate in older adults.
In the study, 2,638 Caucasians and African-Americans aged 70-79 years were asked to fast for 12-hours, after which a blood sample was collected to determine levels of vitamin D. Every six months study participants were contacted to ascertain their medical condition. This study determined the proportion of deaths among participants of with different vitamin D levels.
In addition to many health factors, the time of year was also taken into account due to the seasonal effects on vitamin D.
This study adds to a growing body of literature that underscores the importance of vitamin D and indicates that poor vitamin D nutrition is widespread. The good news is it's easy to improve vitamin D status either through increased skin exposure to sunlight or supplements.
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