The miracle supplement? Vitamin D helps you live longer — so take it

The traditional view of Vitamin D is that it is essential for bone health. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to rickets in children; and osteomalacia in adults. These two conditions can lead to bone deformities with an increased risk of fractures.

Beyond the focus on bone health the evidence for other health effects of Vitamin D has been inconsistent and controversial. Claims have been made about the possible benefits of Vitamin D supplementation in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and strokes. Enhancements to the immune system have also been postulated with potential impacts on infections and conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Research from the University of California published in the current edition of the American Journal of Public Health shows that individuals with lower levels of vitamin D in their blood are twice as likely to die prematurely compared with those with higher levels of Vitamin D. The research involved collecting and re-analysing the data from 32 separate studies involving 566,583 participants — quite a good size sample .

In a separate study published in the current edition of the British Medical Journal, not only was the risk from low blood levels of Vitamin D confirmed – for cancer as well as for heart disease – but supplementation with vitamin D was actually demonstrated to reduce such death rates.

A recent nationwide survey showed that more than 50 per cent of the UK adult population has insufficient levels of Vitamin D and that 16 per cent have severe deficiency during winter and spring. Most of vitamin D comes from sunlight with about a further 10 per cent being derived from diet – especially oily fish, eggs and cereals. There are also a variety of Vitamin D supplements available from pharmacists or on prescription.

Health screening including annual Vitamin D testing (25-OH Vitamin D) would now seem to be a very sensible choice for all adults.

  • Next week: “Vitamin D is worse than smoking.”

  • Chris

    I’ve still never figured out if pill supplements work or not. Some people say they do, others that hardly any is absorbed. Is there a consensus these days?

    • A Wills

      They do work but absorption is improved via capsule form over tablet. Vit D is crucially important. Ideally we need over 400 I.U. per day. The official RDA is out of date (like it is with most) on this.

  • zanzamander

    Specifically vitamin D3. Also I think many people suffer from B12 deficiency.

  • artemis in france

    Here in France Vitamin D has always been considered important. Of course living in the south (as we now do) there’s plentiful sunlight all year round but we sitll take high-dose cod liver oil and my récent blood test showed that I am just within acceptable blood levels without risk of a dangerous lack of it. So it shows how hard it can be to get enough. Incidentally I started taking the cod liver oil about 12 years ago when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my lumbar spine. Previously I had had a mammograph which showed a slight shadow on one breast. I returned three months later and the shadow had gone. By then i’d been taking the cod liver oil for several months. It was only some years later that I realised the possible cause of my breast’s recovery. I have had no récurrence in either breast.

    • Nick Summerton

      Thanks very much for that. I am also interested in CA125 blood testing and ovarian ultrsound in France – for ovarian cancer – as survival rates seem to be 10% higher in France than the UK and I should like to explore why in a future blog. Do you know anything about the situation in your local area? Nick