(NaturalNews) Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, has already been linked to so many vital health functions and benefits. Among others, it boosts immune function, improves absorption of calcium thereby contributing to strong and healthy bones, plays an important role in cell growth, and reduces cancer risk. Now, in a conclusive study carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins earlier this year, it has been revealed that lack of vitamin D can quite greatly increase the overall risk of death.
Details and Findings of Study
The study, which was published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, had looked at a diverse group of 13,000 people participating in a national health survey. The group included both men and women, and the subjects were healthy at the start of the study. Risk of death was then compared with levels of vitamin D in the blood. According to experts, 17.8 nanograms per milliliter of blood or lower is considered a deficiency.
The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the P.J. Schafer Cardiovascular Research Fund and the Paul Beeson Physician Faculty Scholars in Aging Program, found that factors which increased the probability of vitamin D deficiency were increasing age, being female, being of non-white ethnicity, having diabetes, currently a smoker, and having higher body mass index.
On the flip side, more physical activity, vitamin D supplementation and being in non-winter season decreased the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency.
By the end of the year 2000, which covered a median follow-up period of 8.7 years, 1,806 of the participants had passed on, with 777 succumbing to cardiovascular disease.
When analyzed, with factors such as demographics, season and cardiovascular disease risk factors being adjusted for, the data revealed that, compared with those in the highest quartile, those in the lowest quartile in terms of vitamin D levels (i.e. those who were deficient) had an 26% increase in risk of death from all causes.
When adjusted for cardiovascular disease and cancer, higher risks were revealed, although those figures were not statistically significant. All in all, according to the study team, their findings do add to a trend, with other studies having linked vitamin D deficiency to increased breast cancer risk and depression in older folks.
Vitamin D and Heart Disease
And, with specific regard to combating heart disease, vitamin D may have a key role to play, too. The same study team, using data from the same national health survey, had earlier established a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of peripheral artery disease – a hefty 80% increase in risk. Other recent animal and human studies had also identified an association between heart disease and low levels of vitamin D .
"We think we have additional evidence to consider adding vitamin D deficiency as a distinct and separate risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease, putting it alongside much better known and understood risk factors, such as age, gender, family history, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity and diabetes," said Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., co-leader of the study.
"Now that we know vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor, we can better assess how aggressively to treat people at risk of heart disease or those who are already ill and undergoing treatment," she added.
While it is yet unclear how exactly vitamin D affects heart health, some clues may lie in the fact that it influences muscle overgrowth and high blood pressure, as well as controls inflammation, which has been implicated in all types of heart disease.
Whatever the case, the key bottom line is that there is more and more evidence pointing to the need for the average person to ensure he or she has sufficient levels of vitamin D in his or her body. This fact is all the more poignant when we consider that, according to previous data from the said national survey, 41% of men and 53% of women in the US are deficient in vitamin D. That adds up to almost half the entire population.
As Dr Michos put it, "Our results make it much more clear that all men and women concerned about their overall health should more closely monitor their blood levels of vitamin D, and make sure they have enough."
With the occurrence of so many vitamin D-affected diseases reaching epidemic proportions, it is becoming more urgent that we ditch our sedentary indoor lifestyles and start embracing sensible amounts of daily sunshine.