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Vitamin D May Cut Death & Disease Risks
The value of vitamin D gained more verification from an observational study in more than 10,000 men and women.
University of Kansas researchers found lower rates of heart disease and diabetes among those with higher vitamin D blood levels.
And people who reported taking vitamin D supplements were less likely to have died during the study, which lasted almost six years.
The scientists noted that their findings fit with prior evidence:
“Recent evidence supports an association between vitamin D deficiency and hypertension, vascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, and heart failure” (Vacek JL et al. 2012).
Fatty fish rivals
vitamin D pills for dosage
Almost certainly, any finding about vitamin D supplements would apply to diets rich in wild salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and other fatty fish.
Fatty fish are the only foods with serious amounts of vitamin D … tuna and wild salmon provide 500 to 700 IU per 3.5 oz serving, vs. the RDA of 600 IU.
(See our Seafood Nutrition Chart for the levels of vitamin D and omega-3s in various species.)
This explains why the long under-valued, hormone-like nutrient is often called the “sunshine-and-seafood” vitamin. Fortified milk or cereal typically contains 100 IU or less per serving.
Wild salmon provides much more vitamin D than farmed salmon does … see “Wild Salmon Beats Farmed for Vitamin D.”
(See our 2008 story, “Vitamin D Linked to Better Heart Health ... Again” and the sources list at the end of this article.)
The greatest risk reductions from vitamin D supplements were seen in people considered deficient in vitamin D.
This led the researchers to suggest that the Institute of Medicine didn't go far enough when it raised the recommended daily allowance (RDA) from 200 IU to 600 IU at the close of 2010.
The few clinical studies conducted to date have been small, short, and have produced inconsistent results … and crucially, they tested relatively low doses.
As the Kansas team noted, daily intakes well above the current RDA are more likely to reliably raise vitamin blood levels into the optimal range:
“Many previous studies … have used doses of 400 to 800 IU, which might not be adequate to ensure optimal serum [blood] levels, with more appropriate daily supplement doses suggested as 1,000 to 2,000 IU” (Vacek JL et al. 2012).
Findings affirm D's general value and make the case for supplements
University of Kansas researchers led by James Vacek, M.D., set out to see how people's vitamin D levels and use of vitamin D supplements might affect the risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and death.
The study involved 10,899 men (29 percent) and women (71 percent). Their average age at the outset was 58 plus or minus 15 years, and they were followed for five years and eight months.
Participants were classified as vitamin D deficient if their blood levels fell below 30 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).
Blood tests showed that the volunteers' average vitamin D level was 24 ng/ml, and that 70 percent were deficient in the nutrient.
At the end of the study period, the people classified vitamin D deficient had significantly higher rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases … including hypertension, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.
And the risk of death from any cause was 164 percent higher in people classified as vitamin D deficient.
Conversely, people who used vitamin D supplements were 61 percent more likely to have avoided death over the course of the study.
The Kansas group offered a clear conclusion: “Our study suggests a significant association of vitamin D supplement use and improved survival in deficient subjects, supporting the potential benefit of this intervention” (Vacek JL et al. 2012).
They also noted that vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency remains widespread, and called for campaigns designed to boost supplementation … which could make a hefty impact on public health.
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  • Schilli MB, Paus R, Czarnetzki BM, Reichrath J. [Vitamin D3 and its analogs as multifunctional steroid hormones. Molecular and clinical aspects from the dermatologic viewpoint]. Hautarzt 1994;45:445-52.
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  • Wiseman H. Vitamin D is a membrane antioxidant. Ability to inhibit iron-dependent lipid peroxidation in liposomes compared to cholesterol, ergosterol and tamoxifen and relevance to anticancer action. FEBS Lett. 1993 Jul 12;326(1-3):285-8.
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