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 . 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