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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

The latest on vitamin D status and mortality

Dr. Tea Skaaby and colleagues of the Research Centre for Prevention and Health at Glostrup Hospital in Denmark, just published the latest study looking at vitamin D levels and death rates. This was the first study that investigated the association of vitamin D status and different specific causes of death in the same study population.

Skaaby T, Husemoen LLN, Pisinger C, Jørgensen T, Thuesen BH, et al. (2012) Vitamin D Status and Cause-Specific Mortality: A General Population Study. PLoS ONE 7(12): e52423. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052423

They studied 9,146 individuals from two different cohorts (groups) from as early as 1993 to the end of 2009 that had frozen blood samples from the beginning of their enrollment and assayed vitamin D levels. Over the years, there were a total of 832 deaths, with a median follow-up of about 10 years.

They split the vitamin D levels into four equal groups (quartiles). For the largest of their two cohorts, the lowest one-fourth had average 25(OH)D levels of 9 ng/ml, the second quartile had a mean of 16 ng/ml, the third quartile had a mean of 22 ng/ml and the highest quartile had a mean of 32 ng/ml.

They found significant associations between vitamin D status and death caused by diseases of the respiratory system (Hazard Ratio or HR=.26), the digestive system (HR=.28), and endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (HR=.21) for the fourth vitamin D quartile compared to the first. However, unlike most other studies, they found no association between vitamin D status and death caused by cancer or cardiovascular disease. I don’t know why such associations were not found,  as so many other studies have found such associations.

The authors concluded,

“We found significant inverse associations between vitamin D status and death caused by diseases of the endocrine, the respiratory, and the digestive system but no associations with death caused by neoplasms or diseases of the circulatory system. Due to the explorative nature of the study and the low number of events in some of the disease categories, the results need to be confirmed in other studies. The results, however, suggest that we also look elsewhere (than to cardiovascular disease and cancer) to explain the inverse association between vitamin D status and mortality.”

What was remarkable about this Skaaby et al Danish paper was the breathtaking array of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. Even neurological illnesses had a trend towards reduced mortality with higher vitamin D levels.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

10 Responses to The latest on vitamin D status and mortality

  1. theguru says:

    “the highest quartile had a mean of 32 ng/ml”

    – isn’t even 32 ng/ml too low to have any significant influence on cancer or cardiovascular disease?

  2. Rita and Misty says:

    Heaney argues that 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/L) should be the minimum.

  3. Mike_Hinton says:

    I’m sticking with 65 ng/ml as the goal for now. It seems to be the “mean of the mean” of recommendations. Anyone think that might be dangerous?

  4. Rita and Misty says:

    I keep mine higher…85 ng/ml is my target. Just took a test last week…looking forward to learning the results. :)

  5. Brant Cebulla says:

    Mike, not sure if that was a rhetorical question, but 65 ng/ml is indeed in the middle of the normal range set by the Endocrine Society (30-100 ng/ml). So you are quite in the middle.

    theguru, research is underway to find out if 32 ng/ml is too low for effects on cancer and cardiovascular disease. Hunter-gatherers that get year-round sun exposure have higher levels (around 50 ng/ml), so there is some thought that 32 ng/ml is low. Randomized controlled trials are underway to find out; they will be complete in 5-7 years.

  6. sverre@omang.com says:

    I am a 75 year old Norwegian citicen, with a 6 year old untreated prostate cancer diagnosis. I have supplemented my D3 intake with 10- to 15,000 iU vitamin D3 daily the last 4 years and my level have increased from 40 to 78 ng/ml. I have added 150 mcg K2 daily during these years. Will it be necessary for me to increase the Vitamin K2 intake in light of the danish results showing arterial calcification without sufficient Vitamin K2 when having a high Vitamin D3 intake?

    Sverre H. Omang

  7. HENRY says:

    Now would be a good time to find out how much vitamin D will prevent the complications of the flu. The big news on TV today is that this is the biggest flu epidemic in a long time. What would be interesting is the serum vitamin D level of people that get the flu. My goal over the last 6 years or so is to keep my vitamin D above 100. It seems to me the Danish study has vitamin levels so low the study is useless and stupid. It’s like tyring to deremine if eating two eggs a years raises cholester

    ol levels more the one egg a year.

  8. Rita and Misty says:

    @Henry….we are on the same wave length. My 25(OH)D level as of January 1, 2013 is 104 ng/ml. This is after supplementing with 32,000 iu of D3 since October 1, 2012….During the summer, my level was around 75 ng/ml, with 16,000 iu of D3 daily and approx 2.5 hours of high sun per week (I live in CT).

    I originally thought it best to maintain a level of 85 ng/ml….now, I am wondering if this level is too low to stave off the flu.

  9. Rita and Misty says:

    I just reread my above post, and realized I left out an important tidbit of info… For those who are wondering… YES…I was taking 32,000 i.u. DAILY from 10.1.12–01.01.13. :)

  10. Kate Saley says:

    @HENRY, a study assessing vitamin D status of those infected with the flu, as well as those exposed, but not infected would indeed be intriguing. Did you see Dr Cannell’s recent blog post discussing the early flu season? If not, take a look: http://blog.vitamindcouncil.org/2013/01/09/dear-dr-cannell-flu-season-hits-early/