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Optimal vitamin D levels may reduce risk of premature death

Having adequate levels of vitamin D is important for children’s health. This nutrient, which can be produced by the body when exposed to sunlight, plays a vital role in bone formation. Children with insufficient vitamin D are at risk of developing rickets, a condition where bones soften and weaken.

Vitamin D is also important for adults. Several studies show that not having enough vitamin D can increase a person’s risk of premature death. Researchers who investigated whether vitamin D deficiency is associated with cause-specific mortality also arrived at the same conclusion.

Vitamin D for longevity

There’s plenty of research supporting the importance of vitamin D for a longer life span.

A recent study, conducted by researchers at the Medical University of Vienna, examined the effects of low vitamin D levels on all-cause and cause-specific mortality. It involved a large cohort of more than 78,000 participants from all age groups.

The researchers set 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) as their benchmark for vitamin D levels, with 10 nmol/L indicating a deficiency and 90 nmol/L meaning high levels of the vitamin.

The researchers found that all-cause mortality risk was two to three times higher for participants with low levels of vitamin D and lower by 30 to 40 percent for those with high levels of the vitamin. These associations were strongest in participants aged 45 to 60 years.

The researchers also found that low levels of the vitamin increased the participants’ risk of diabetes-related death; those who were vitamin D deficient had a 4.4 times higher risk of dying due to diabetes than participants with healthy vitamin D levels. Again, the finding was most pronounced in participants aged 45 to 60.

“Our findings strengthen the rationale for widespread vitamin D supplementation to prevent premature mortality, emphasize the need for it early in life and mitigate concerns about a possible negative effect at higher levels,” the researchers said. They presented their research at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Barcelona, Spain last September 2019.

Another study, published in the journal BMJ, analyzed the results of 52 randomized trials involving over 75,000 participants. The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation reduced cancer mortality risk by 16 percent.

Meanwhile, in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers linked having sufficient vitamin D to a 30 percent reduced risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease. They recommended having blood values of the vitamin around 42 to 100 nmol/L.

When asked how much vitamin D people should get daily, the researchers said that it varies per person; for people who eat diets rich in the vitamin and get sufficient sun exposure, there’s little need for vitamin D supplements. (Related: The ‘D’-fensive Vitamin: Study Finds Vitamin D Sustains Life.)

How much vitamin D to take

While many experts recommend spending time in the sun to boost vitamin D, it might not be enough if there’s little sunlight in your area, such as during the winter months. A darker skin tone, poor health status and the use of sunblock can also affect how much vitamin D your body makes.

To optimize your vitamin D levels, you can take supplements or consume more foods rich in the vitamin, such as fish, fish oil, mushroom and egg yolk. The recommended daily amounts of vitamin D are 600 international units (IU) for ages one to 70, and 800 IU for people over 70 years old. A daily intake of 400 IU should be enough for children up to 12 months old.

Experts advise having your vitamin D levels measured every so often, particularly if you rely on the sun to get your daily dose of the vitamin.

Learn more about the benefits of vitamin D at

Sources include:

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