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Study Links Low Vitamin D Levels To Heart Disease

September 23, 2009
A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older adults with low vitamin D levels were 3 times more likely to die from heart disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause compared to those with optimal vitamin D status. "It’s likely that more than one-third of older adults now have vitamin D levels associated with higher risks of death and few have levels associated with optimum survival," said Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the UC Denver School of Medicine’s Division of Emergency Medicine and lead author of the study. Older adults are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency because their skin has less exposure to the sun due to more limited outdoor activities as well as reduced ability to make vitamin D. Using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the research team analyzed vitamin D in blood samples of more than 3,400 participants that were selected to be representative of the 24 million older adults in the United States. Dr. Ginde says the findings suggest that current daily recommendations of vitamin D may not be enough for older adults to maintain optimal health and hopes to perform a large, population-based clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation in older adults to see if it can improve survival and reduce the incidence of heart disease. This study is the second of two by the same team; the first one identified vitamin D’s significant role in boosting the immune system and warding off colds and flu. "Vitamin D has health effects that go beyond strong bones," says Dr. Ginde. "It’s likely that it makes a vital contribution to good health."