A new study of vitamin D deficiency suggests raising levels of the “sunshine vitamin” might reduce the risk of early death in older Americans.
The research, published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, linked low levels of vitamin D with increased mortality in more than 2,600 white and African American people over 70 years of age. Researchers also found raising vitamin levels may be particularly helpful to minorities, who tend to have a greater prevalence of deficiencies than whites.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
"We observed vitamin D insufficiency in one third of our study participants. This was associated with nearly a 50 percent increase in the mortality rate in older adults," said lead researcher Stephen B. Kritchevsky, with the Wake Forest School of Medicine. "Our findings suggest that low levels of vitamin D may be a substantial public health concern for our nation's older adults."
For the study, 2,638 white and black seniors — aged 70-79 years — were asked to fast for 12 hours, then tested for blood levels of vitamin D. Every six months researchers checked on the seniors’ health status. The results showed the seniors with low levels of vitamin D were significantly more likely to die during the course of the study.
"We all know that good nutrition is important to overall health and our study adds to a growing body of literature that underscores the importance of vitamin D and indicates that poor vitamin D nutrition is wide-spread," said Kritchevsky. "The good news is it's easy to improve vitamin D status either through increased skin exposure to sunlight or through diet or supplements."
Past studies have tied low levels of vitamin D to various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease, but have largely involved only people of European descent.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.