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||Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM
TUESDAY June 24, 2008 (foodconsumer.org)
-- Individuals with lower blood levels of sunshine vitamin D in their blood
appear to have an increased risk of death from all causes and from
cardiovascular diseases, according to an Austrian study in the June 23
issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study found
people with a lowest level of vitamin D in their blood were twice as
likely to die from any cause including death from heart disease during
an eight-year period as those who had a high level.
Vitamin D is naturally produced in the body when the skin is exposed to
sunshine. Exposure of the face and both hands for 20 minutes to strong
sunshine is believed to generate enough vitamin D while a dietary
regimen is needed to have a preventative effect against certain
diseases or death, particularly in dark-skinned individuals and the
elderly who produce less vitamin D.
An estimated 50 to 60 percent of older people in North America and the
rest of the world do not have sufficient vitamin D and a similar
percentage of young people have the same problem, according to the
background information in the report.
Previous studies have linked blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the
blood lower than 20 to 30 nanograms per milliliter with risk of falls,
fractures, cancer, immune dysfunction, cardiovascular disease and
In the study, Harald Dobnig, M.D., an internist and endocrinologist at
Medical University of Graz, Austria, and colleagues measured
25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels in 3,258
consecutive patients at an average age of 62 years who were underwent
coronary angiography testing between 1997 and 2000.
During the 7.7-year follow-up, 22.6 percent of participants died and
among the dead, 62.8 percent were caused by cardiovascular causes.
Death rates from any cause and from the cardiovascular causes were
higher in those with their blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in the
lower 50 percent and in the lowest one-fourth of 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin
D levels, the study found.
Low 25-hydroxyviitamin D levels were also linked with markers of
inflammation such as c-reactive protein as well as signs of oxidative
damage to cells, the study found.
"Apart from the proved effects that vitamin D has on bone metabolism
and neuromuscular function, appropriate serum levels (that may also be
higher than in the present investigation) are associated with a
decrease in mortality," the researchers concluded.
"Although not proved, it seems possible that at least part of this
effect may be due to lowering of a risk profile promoting
atherosclerosis [narrowing of the arteries] and preventing
cardiovascular end points." The researchers said.
"Based on the findings of this study, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level
of 20 nanograms per milliliter or higher may be advised for maintaining
general health." (Editor’s note: many other studies have suggested that
30 nanograms per milliliter are needed.)
The current study merely established an association between the serum
vitamin D level and death risk and it did not prove that taking vitamin
D supplements to increase its level in the body would actually reduce
the risk of death from all causes although the possibility cannot be
However, many clinical trials have already demonstrated the
preventative effect of vitamin D against premature deaths from all
causes including cardiovascular causes.
One study meta-analyzed data from 18 separate trials of 57,000
participants who had a dietary supplement of vitamin D at a dose
ranging from 300 to 2000 International Units and found those who took
vitamin D had a 7 percent lower risk of death than those who did not.
The study was conducted by Philippe Autier, M.D., of the International
Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France, and Sara Gandini, Ph.D.,
of the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy and published in
the September 10, 2007 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Overall, early studies showed deficiencies in vitamin D are associated
with a higher risk of death from cancers including breast, prostate,
and colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes-illnesses, which overall
are responsible for 60 to 70 percent of deaths in developed countries.
Another study conducted by Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D. at Harvard
School of Public and colleagues revealed that people with 15 nanograms
per milliliter of blood or less was found 2.42 times higher than those
with a sufficient amount (30 nanograms per milliliter). The findings
were published in the June 9, 2008 issue of Archives of Internal
The researchers came to the conclusion after they compared 454 men age
40 to 75 who had non-fatal heart attack or fatal heart disease during
the follow-up period with 900 men who did not have a history
Sunshine is the basic source of vitamin D. But readers may be careful
about the advice they receive from news media, a health observer
affiliated with foodconsumer.org suggested. Exposure to ultraviolet
rays is widely viewed as a risk for developing skin cancer and people
are often urged to use screens to block exposure to sunshine. Be aware
though that vitamin D deficiency can put an individual at a higher risk
of dying from other more serious types of cancers and a variety of
other chronic diseases.
Other sources include fortified foods such as fortified milk and
cereals, natural foods such as cod liver oil, fatty fish such as cooked
salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, egg yolks, liver of animals, and
The current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 200 IU per day
for people age under 50, 400 IUs for those age between 50 and 70, and
600 IUs for those over 70. Older people need higher doses. Research
has found healthy people can tolerate intake of up to 10,000 IU per
day. Vitamin D experts have already complained that the current RDA is
too low to have a protective effect and recommended that the RDA should
be increased to at least 1,000 IU per day.
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