According to a new analysis, people with higher vitamin D levels live longer and have a lower risk from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Of course, the contrary is also correct – low vitamin D levels in the body may be related to a higher risk of premature death.
However, the researchers say that the results of the analysis aren’t definitive.
“Besides the fact that people with low vitamin D pass away more frequently from cancer and cardiovascular disease, it has not been proven if this is caused by the low levels of vitamin D or if it is a by-product of poor health in general,” said Ben Schoettker, the lead author of study, and a post doctoral scientist with the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Germany.
Still, the research, published on June 17 in BMJ, suggests that vitamin D may greatly benefit people, and noted that the findings are “compellingly consistent.”
There have been various studies that have praised and debunked the ability of vitamin D to prolong people’s lifespan.
Vitamin D (or “the sunshine vitamin”) is produced by the body when it is exposed to sunlight. It can be found in foods like yogurt, milk, eggs, salmon, tuna, orange juice and cereal.
Shoettker said that this analysis included people with various levels of vitamin D in their bodies, and did not use participants to take inactive placebo or vitamin D supplements, due to the cost of such analysis.
The research included tracking more than 26,000 non-smoking men and women from eight studies which were conducted in Europe and the USA, aged between 50 and 79. Around 6,700 participants passed away during the duration of the studies, mainly of cancer or heart disease.
The participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 1.5 times more prone to die from any cause and from cardiovascular disease during the duration of the studies than the participants with the highest levels. Those with low vitamin D levels and a cancer history were 1.7 times more prone to die of the disease. People who had not had cancer until that time had no change in the risk of dying of cancer by vitamin D levels.
“Extremely low vitamin D levels are primarily linked with older age and poorer physical activity which may lead to insufficient exposure to the sun, but on the other hand, the reasons for higher vitamin D levels are unknown,” Schoettker noted.
Vitamin D may not change levels of risk for health problems and early death, but it is possible that vitamin D levels reflect general health. According to the study, low levels of vitamin D may be a sign of poor health, instead of a cause of it.
According to the chair of the department of chronic disease epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, Susan Mayne, the science connecting the vitamin to cancer and cardiovascular disease is in its early stages, and it is still not known how vitamin D could prolong people’s lives, but it may be because it acts like a hormone.
Mayne and Schoettker advise people to follow the advice of the Institute of Medicine on vitamin D, which says in its 2010 report that most Canadians and Americans already get a sufficient amount of vitamin D, but does not mention whether people with cancer or cardiovascular disease should take supplements.