Vitamin D has long been studied for its potential to prevent illness, and while positive results have been observed, most studies have been small. However, two recently published studies show more affirmatively a connection between low vitamin D and deaths from heart disease and cancer and possible aid in prevention of other diseases.
Vitamin D Basics
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, which means it's stored within the body. Vitamin D is normally produced within the body after exposure to sunlight -- about 30 minutes without sunscreen. It can also be obtained through foods like salmon, eggs and fortified cereals as well as supplements. The average recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for RDA in an adult is 600 IU per day until the age of 70 and 800 IU per day thereafter. Vitamin D deficiency can occur when an individual isn't regularly exposed to sunlight or is obese. Diet, lack of exercise and smoking can also impact vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is known to support the activity of the immune system which is why it continues to be studied for its role in disease prevention. Both released April 1, the two new studies show individuals with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to illness as a whole and more likely to die from heart disease and cancer. This confirms that adequate vitamin D supports overall health, however, it's crucial to note vitamin D will not 100 percent prevent illness from happening. More research will need to be done to determine if that is the case.
The two studies are considered meta-analyses, meaning they looked at data from several previously published studies to determine any patterns or trends in the results. They were both published in the medical journal BMJ, with researchers looking at data from more than one million participants. They examined the relationship between vitamin D levels within the blood as well as the affects of taking a vitamin D supplement on a daily basis.
When it comes to disease, the first study found low vitamin D increased an individual's chance of dying from cancer by 14 percent and their chance of dying from heart disease by 35 percent -- their overall mortality rate was also higher when vitamin D was present in low levels in the blood. The researchers also found supplementation with vitamin D3 decreased an adult's mortality by 11 percent.
The second study confirmed there was "suggestive" evidence to indicate vitamin D helped in the prevention of diseases such as diabetes and stroke. However, this study also didn't conclude supplementation would outright prevent illness. This study also questioned vitamin D's effectiveness in preventing bone loss and osteoporosis, stating more research is needed to support this commonly referenced benefit.
What Does It All Mean?
These two studies together show the benefits of getting adequate vitamin D, which confirms its importance as an essential nutrient. They do not, however, give an exact recommendation to take vitamin D in supplement form at any specific amount beyond the recommended daily amount for the prevention of illness. The researchers suggest making sure you get the correct amount through diet and exposure to the sun (about 30 minutes twice a week).
Supplements beyond the daily recommended amount should be taken at a doctor's recommendation, especially if you have a medical condition or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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