Vitamin D supplementation appears to save lives

Just last week I highlighted the apparent association between higher levels of vitamin D and reduced risk of a variety of conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis. All of this research has some merit, but until recently I had not been aware of any attempt to specifically assess the link between vitamin D and overall risk of mortality. In other words, while we know that vitamin D is linked with a reduced risk of several conditions, we didn’t know whether this translates into a reduction in funeral rates.

This week, though, the situation changed on the publication of a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine [1]. Two researchers (one based at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and the other based at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy) reviewed 18 studies in which vitamin D supplements had been used to treat any medical condition. The daily dose vitamin D varied in these studies from 300 to 2000 IU (international units).

Overall, compared to those taking placebo, vitamin D was found to reduce risk of death by 7 per cent, and this was statistically significant. In other words, vitamin D supplementation does seem to have the capacity to save lives.

The more I learn about vitamin D, the more I become convinced that this nutrient has the ability to enhance both the quality and quantity of our lives. There are reports too that suboptimal levels of vitamin D are common, particularly in those living far away from the equator.

I’m a big believer in taking steps that are free and easy such as getting out in the sun. However, for some, weather conditions may make this difficult if not impossible. With this in mind, some individuals may like to consider supplementation with vitamin D, especially in the winter months. Cod liver represents a good option here (for non vegetarians of course). Each teaspoon of cod liver oil contains 500 IU of vitamin D.


1. Autier P, et al. Vitamin D supplementation and total mortality. Arch Int Med 2007;167:1730-1737

5 Responses to Vitamin D supplementation appears to save lives

  1. Sara Neill 14 September 2007 at 1:20 pm #

    You know, as I get older and see the results of recent research, it is brought home to me how much we knew when I was a kid some sixty-odd years ago … none of it scientifically proven at the time of course, and therefore, by the standards of some pedants in today’s world, they were snake oil.

    However, just as those who gained weight in the forties knew to reduce their intake of bread, cake and potatoes (thereby eating a “low carb” diet), cod-liver oil was thrust down the throats of many reluctant children “because it is good for you.” All an “old wives’ tale” at the time, but now we know it is true – ‘cos the scientists say so!

    Sara Neill

  2. Matty Maccaro 14 September 2007 at 2:42 pm #

    Statin users should be aware that using statin drugs causes huge decrease in vitamin D, also it reduces the positive effect Omega 3 fatty acids can have and generally wrecks havoc with all your fat soluable vitamins. It is also important to know that vitamin D is necessary for calcium to be properly utilized. By the time I stopped using statins, I was deficient in vitamin D and my bones were brittle for lack of calcium.

  3. Neil Fiertel 14 September 2007 at 4:40 pm #

    I live in Alberta, Canada where the UV index is a part of our Spring and Summer routine as the Ozone layer is thinnest here and north of us. I do not go in the sun much partly for that reason and due to the mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus! Hah ha..So much for getting Vitamin D naturally. I go for the cheap and easily available supplements and have done so for about 18 months now after being advised to do so by my family doctor. As you might know, Canada has a high rate of MS and I have little doubt as to why! Many of us are more likely to get sun during the winter if we skii but if like many of us, we do not love the winter ( personally, I HATE cold weather which is half the year) and do not much care for mosquitoes for the summer, that leaves me a few months inbetween. Those cheap little white pills do it for me…1600 IU DAILY, by the way.

  4. Tracey Smith 15 September 2007 at 9:45 pm #

    can someone please explain to me how cod liver oil can be good? The liver is used for detoxifiying –
    Isnt it better to take an EFA and separate D supplement???

  5. Roz Kadir 12 October 2007 at 5:29 pm #

    I would not take Cod liver oil but use a clean whole fish EFA and supplementary Vit D unless you are able to find a cleaned source of cod liver oil, which most of them are not.
    Nutri do a high dose Vit D with isoflavones.

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