Study indicates that vitamin D can help prevent early death from cardiovascular disease and cancer

Elderly people with a vitamin D deficiency are more at risk for death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a large-scale study by the Mount Sinai health system of New York and a group of international collaborators, published in the June issue of BMJ, formerly British Medical Journal.

Paolo Boffetta of the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai led a collection and analysis of data that showed a significant association between low vitamin D levels and risk of death not only from cardiovascular diseases and cancer in older people with a history of cancer, but death from all causes.

Other studies showed that vitamin D helps prevent issues like hypertension, diabetes and bone loss, but these new findings suggest it might be even more important than previously known. “Going into our study, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of death was not clear,” Boffetta said. “Our analysis confirms the protective nature of this substance, especially in elderly patients.”

Sunlight, as well as food and supplements, provide vitamin D. Because elderly people generally get less sun, they’re more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. Though researchers don’t yet know how much vitamin D is ideal, the study results do argue that people with a vitamin-D deficiency are more likely to die early than those who don’t have such a deficiency, Boffetta said.

Researchers use data from eight different studies including 26,018 men and women between ages 70 and 79. During the study, 6,695 participants died—2,624 from cardiovascular diseases and 2,227 from cancer. Participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a risk ratio of 1.57, which was double the death risk of the people with high concentrations of the vitamin.

“Vitamin D’s protective effect is clear,” Boffetta said. “If our results are confirmed in additional studies, it could lead to recommendations for greater vitamin D supplementation in foods and to a better understanding of its role in cancer prognosis.” (Read more)

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