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People With Low Vitamin D More Likely To Die


People With Low Vitamin D More Likely To Die

New research shows that patients with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were about two times more likely to die from any cause during the eight years following the initial testing than those with the highest levels. The link with heart-related deaths was particularly strong in those with low vitamin D levels.

vitamin D for a Healthy HeartThe study, led by Austrian researchers, involved 3,258 men and women in southwest Germany. Participants were age 62 on average-most with heart disease-whose vitamin D levels were checked in weekly blood tests. During roughly eight years of follow-up, 737 died, including 463 from heart-related problems. According to one of the vitamin tests they used, there were 307 deaths in patients with the lowest levels of vitamin D versus 103 deaths in those with the highest levels. Counting age, physical activity and other factors, the researchers calculated that deaths from all causes were about twice as common in patients in the lowest-level group.

The study results appear in the June 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Lead author, Harald Dobnig of the Medical University of Graz in Austria, says the results don't prove that low levels of vitamin D are harmful, but adds that the evidence is just becoming overwhelming at this point.

It also can't be determined from this type of study whether lack of vitamin D caused the deaths, or whether increasing vitamin D intake would make any difference.

Low vitamin D levels could reflect age, lack of physical activity and other lifestyle factors that also affect health, says American Heart Association spokeswoman Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University.

Still, she notes that the study is an important addition to an emerging area of research. "This is something that should not be ignored," Lichtenstein says.

Dobnig adds that, while scientists used to think that the only role of vitamin D was to prevent rickets and strengthen bones, now we are beginning to realize that there is much more to it. Exactly how low vitamin D levels might contribute to heart problems and deaths from other illnesses is uncertain, although it is has been shown to help regulate the body's disease-fighting immune system, he says.

Earlier this month, the Archives of Internal Medicine included research led by Harvard scientists linking low vitamin D levels with heart attacks. And previous research has linked low vitamin D with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, which all can contribute to heart disease.

Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard study says the new research provides the strongest evidence to date for a link between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular mortality.

Source: MSNBC 29.6.08


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