Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Sunshine Vitamin' May Cut Death Risk

Vitamin D Appears to Cut Risk of Dying Early
By Joseph Brownstein
ABC News Medical Unit

In the newest in a line of studies showing the potential value of vitamin D, new research from Johns Hopkins University shows that not getting enough of the so-called "sunshine vitamin" may increase the risk of early death by more than a quarter.

Researchers used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and looked at people's vitamin D levels and then death from various causes. While the risk of death for people with low vitamin D from any single cause was only slightly elevated, the broader picture showed a 26 percent increase in death rates.

"[Low] vitamin D levels seem to confer an increased risk of dying from any cause," said Dr. Erin Michos, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, and one of the lead investigators of the study.

She said that the study showed an association between low vitamin D and death from heart disease, and said further study may reveal vitamin D to be a sign of impending heart disease.

Many doctors cite the importance of vitamin D because of the relatively high levels of deficiency among Americans. A 2005 study from Drew University and UCLA showed that more than 41 percent of men and 53 percent of women had mildly or severely deficient levels of vitamin D.

And those chronic deficiencies are why people should monitor vitamin D levels, according to O'Keefe.

"We're not designed to be moles; we're designed to be outdoor creatures," he said. "Prudent sun exposure not only feels good, it's good for vitamin D levels."

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