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EUROPEAN SUNLIGHT ASSOCIATION
8/11/2008

Low vitamin D levels associated with increased risk of death

CHICAGO -- August 11, 2008 -- Individuals with low levels of vitamin D appear to have a higher risk of death from all causes, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Michal L. Melamed, MD, MHS, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, and colleagues analysed vitamin D levels in 13,331 individuals who participated in the Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES III), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vitamin D levels were collected between 1988 and 1994, and participants were tracked through 2000.

Over a median of 8.7 years of follow-up, 1,806 of the participants died. When they were divided into quartiles based on their vitamin D levels, those in the lowest group with less than 17.8 ng/mL had a 26% increased rate of death from any cause compared with those in the group with the highest vitamin D levels. No significant associations were found when the researchers assessed vitamin D levels and risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer alone.

Low vitamin D levels may be associated with death through their effect on blood pressure, the body's ability to respond to insulin, obesity, and diabetes risk, the authors noted. Several lines of evidence support vitamin D's role in death risk, including the fact that cardiovascular events are more common in the winter, when vitamin D levels are lower, and that cancer survival is better if the disease is diagnosed in the summer when levels are higher.

"In conclusion, the lowest 25(OH)D [25-hydroxyvitamin D] quartile is associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality in the general US population," the authors said. "Further observational studies are needed to confirm these findings and establish the mechanisms underlying these observations. If confirmed, randomised clinical trials will be needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation at higher doses could have any potential benefit in reducing future mortality risk in those with 25(OH)D deficiency."

SOURCE: "Journal of the American Medical Association" adapted from European Sunlight Association
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