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Vitamin D Linked (Again) to Lower Breast, Heart, and Death Risks
10/1/2009
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Two recent population studies add to the evidence linking higher vitamin D levels to reduced health risks
by Craig Weatherby


We all know that vitamin D is even more important than calcium when it comes to bone health, because it's needed to get calcium into bones.

But it's become crystal clear that the critical health effects of vitamin D extend well beyond bones to the entire body.

Key Points
  • New population studies link low vitamin D levels to higher breast, heart, and death risks.
  • The findings echo those of earlier population studies from America and Europe.
  • Clinical trials are needed to prove a cause-effect relationship between low vitamin D and major health risks.
  • Few Americans have the vitamin D blood levels recommended by leading university researchers.
Last year, American and Austrian researchers reported results indicating that that people with low vitamin D blood levels are at greater risk of death.

At about the same time, Canadian researchers published findings that affirmed earlier indications that vitamin D may protect against breast cancer.

(For more on those studies and others, see “Vitamin D Roundup: Breast Health, Mortality, and Baby Teeth,” and search our newsletter archive for “vitamin d.”)


Now, the results of a new University of Colorado analysis of health data from 3,400 Americans affirms the prior reports linking low vitamin D levels to higher death and heart risks.

And a Columbia University study published in June once again links low vitamin D levels to higher breast cancer risks.

Let’s take a closer look at both of the new American studies.

National survey data links death and heart risk to low vitamin D levels
The results of a “case-control” study indicates that older people with low blood levels of vitamin D may be 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause
and three times more likely to die from heart disease.

These risks were calculated in comparison to people with adequate levels of the “sunshine and seafood” vitamin.

Fish fit the vitamin D bill; Sockeye salmon stand out
In addition to getting vitamin D from supplements, certain fish rank among the very few substantial food sources of vitamin D, far outranking milk and other D-fortified foods.

Among fish, wild Sockeye Salmon may be the richest source of all, with a single 3.5 ounce serving surpassing the US RDA of 400 IU by about 70 percent:

Vitamin D per 3.5 ounce serving*

Sockeye Salmon—687 IU
Albacore Tuna—544 IU
Silver Salmon—430 IU
King Salmon—236 IU
Sardines—222 IU
Sablefish—169 IU
Halibut—162 IU

*For our full test results, click here.
To arrive at the new findings, a team from the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine compared medical data collected from 3,488 people aged 65, including their medical records and blood test results (Ginde AA et al. 2009).

The subjects were participating in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They enrolled between 1988 and 1994 and were followed until 2000.

After an average of 7 years of follow-up, 1,493 people died, including 767 who died from cardiovascular disease.


Sources
  • Bischoff-Ferrari HA. Optimal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels for multiple health outcomes. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;624:55-71. Review.
  • Crew KD, Gammon MD, Steck SE, Hershman DL, Cremers S, Dworakowski E, Shane E, Terry MB, Desai M, Teitelbaum SL, Neugut AI, Santella RM. Association between plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and breast cancer risk. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). 2009 Jun;2(6):598-604. Epub 2009 May 26.
  • Ginde AA, Scragg R, Schwartz RS, Camargo CA Jr. Prospective Study of Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in Older U.S. Adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Jun 22. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Heaney RP. Vitamin D in health and disease. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2008 Sep;3(5):1535-41. Epub 2008 Jun 4.
  • Melamed ML, Michos ED, Post W, Astor B. 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Aug 11;168(15):1629-37.
  • Vieth R, Chan PC, MacFarlane GD. Efficacy and safety of vitamin D3 intake exceeding the lowest observed adverse effect level. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2):288-94.
  • Wagner CL, Greer FR, Section on Breastfeeding and Committee on Nutrition. Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents Accessed online October 13, 2008 at http://www.aap.org/new/VitaminDreport.pdf

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