Vitamin deficiency linked to premature death

Dr Ellie on why people should be taking Vitamin D supplements

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Conducted by the University of South Australia the study looked into the long term harms of a vitamin D deficiency.

Their results provide strong evidence that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with a shorter life.

Publishing their research in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, the study discovered that the more severe the deficiency, the greater the impact on life expectancy.

As well as keeping the heart healthy, vitamin D is also essential for bone and muscle health.

First author the study, Doctor Josh Sutherland said: “While severe vitamin D deficiency is rarer in Australia than elsewhere in the world, it can still affect those who have health vulnerabilities, the elderly, and those who do not acquire enough vitamin D from healthy sun exposure and dietary sources.

“Our study provides strong evidence for the connection between low levels of vitamin D and mortality, and this is the first study of its kind to also include respiratory disease related mortality as an outcome.

“We used a new genetic method to explore and affirm the non-linear relationships that we’ve seen in observational settings, and through this we’ve been able give strong evidence for the connection between low vitamin D status and premature death.

“Vitamin D deficiency has been connected with mortality, but as clinical trials have often failed to recruit people with low vitamin D levels — or have been prohibited from including vitamin deficient participants — it’s been challenging to establish causal relationships.”

However, while the study found an association between a vitamin D deficiency and a shorter life, Professor Elina Hypponen said more research was needed to establish efficacious public health strategies to help boost national vitamin D levels.

Professor Hypponen said: “The take-home message here is simple — the key is in the prevention.

“It is not good enough to think about vitamin D deficiency when already facing life-challenging situations, when early action could make all the difference.

“It is very important to continue public health efforts to ensure the vulnerable and elderly maintain sufficient vitamin D levels throughout the year.”

As well as helping improve muscle, heart, and bone health, vitamin D has also been found to help maintain neurological health.

New research suggests that it could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, by around 30 percent.

Co-author of the study, Doctor Sarah Booth, said: “This research reinforces the importance of studying how food and nutrients create resilience to protect the ageing brain against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other related dementias.”

Doctor Booth and her colleagues came to their conclusion after examining brain tissue samples from 209 participants as part of the Rush Memory and Ageing Project.

Professor Kyla Shea, lead author, added: “Many studies have implicated dietary or nutritional factors in cognitive performance or function in older adults, including many studies of vitamin D, but all of them are based on either dietary intakes or blood measures of vitamin D.

“We wanted to know if vitamin D is even present in the brain, and if it is, how those concentrations are linked to cognitive decline”

“Dementia is multifactorial, and lots of the pathological mechanisms underlying it have not been well characterised. Vitamin D could be related to outcomes that we didn’t look at yet, but plan to study in the future.

“We now know that vitamin D is present in reasonable amounts in human brains, and it seems to be correlated with less decline in cognitive function.”

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