If you'd rather die later than sooner, supplement with Vitamin D.? That's the message of a new meta-analysis of recent research published Sept. 10 in Archives of Internal Medicine.
"The intake of ordinary doses of vitamin D supplements seems to be associated with decreases on total mortality rates," the researchers wrote. The meta-analysis examined 18 separate trials involving 57,311 participants, and found that over the course of the studies, those who took vitamin D had a 7 percent lower risk of death than those who did not.? Supplementation seems to have a beneficial effect for a wide variety of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.?
"The results of the analysis are not surprising, frankly," said Andrew Shao, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, based in Washington, D.C. "The last few years of research have linked vitamin D status with lower risks for all sorts of cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers, while other studies have linked supplementation to reduced risk of diabetes and better immune function. Many of these conditions can increase one's risk of dying, so it's no wonder they found a beneficial outcome."
Studies have also shown a strong correlation between vitamin D, bone density and protection against osteoporosis. Vitamin D is found naturally in oily fish and is also added to milk, but the most natural way to? increase vitamin D levels is through exposure to sun.? The skin creates vitamin D from ultraviolet rays, and the vitamin acts as a hormone when active in the body.? This has led some researchers to reconsider the conventional wisdom regarding sun exposure and cancer risk.
Dr. Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the meta-analysis, recently told the American Association for Cancer Research that vitamin D through moderate sun exposure might prevent 30 cancer deaths for each death caused by skin cancer.? The association is now reconsidering its sun protection guidelines.
Another recent study, published this month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, suggests a link between vitamin D supplementation and risk of pre-eclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy.
Though the mechanisms by which vitamin D protects the body from cancers and other diseases is not yet entirely clear, the research overwhelmingly suggest its importance to health.? "This vitamin has a profound effect on health," said Shao.? "Its importance is ever-increasing."