Transcript and list of sources are further down on this page
Intervention - Vitamin D 303 intervention studes as of July 2016
People die sooner if they have low vitamin D
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The Meta-analysis of Mortality and Vitamin D are listed here:
- Review of meta-analyses of non-skeletal benefits of vitamin D (Mortality, RTI, etc) – July 2017
- Lung Cancer death 60 percent less likely if high level of vitamin D – 2 meta-analysis 2017
- ICU patients 30 percent less likely to die if have enough vitamin D – meta-analysis Nov 2016
- Less likely to die if have enough vitamin D - Meta-analysis June 2014
- Vitamin D reduces risk of cause specific death, unless it is D2 – meta-analysis BMJ April 2014
- Death of women from cancer 24 percent less likely if 20 ng more vitamin D – meta-analysis Sept 2013
- Chance of dying increases by 25 percent in seniors if low vitamin D – Meta-analysis July 2013
- Vitamin D protects against many types of health problems – review May 2013
- Vitamin D with Calcium reduces mortality by 7 percent – meta-analysis May 2012
- Death rate reduced 8 percent for 8 nanogram more vitamin D – meta-analysis Feb 2012
- 40 ng Vitamin D perhaps optimal for reduced mortality – Meta-analysis Jan 2012
- Vitamin D3 but not D2 reduces mortality – meta-analysis July 2011
- Vitamin D and mortality a meta-analysis of RCT - 2008
In 1822, a Polish physician was the first to publish that sunlight could cure the vitamin D deficiency disease rickets. His work was ignored by mainstream medicine for a century, not coming into widespread use until the 20th century, when wire cages were affixed to tenement buildings so babies could benefit from the sun. Are we in a similar situation now, where the medical profession has just not caught up with the science?
Researchers have documented correlations between all sorts of good things and higher vitamin D levels—even to the point of seeing whether vitamin D supplementation might reduce the adverse effects of earthquakes. Seems to help with everything else, so why not? It’s actually not as silly as it sounds. Traumatic events like natural disasters can have a significant psychological impact, which may be affected by vitamin D status.
But when researchers put supplements to the test, the purported links often didn’t pan out. This lack of effect may exist, in part, because low vitamin D levels may just be a marker for things like aging, obesity, smoking, and inactivity. Or maybe low vitamin D didn’t lead to disease, but maybe disease led to low vitamin D. Inflammation can drop D levels within the body. So, just because low D levels and disease seem to be correlated doesn’t mean that vitamin D deficiency is the cause.
While the majority of observational studies may show a link, where you just measure vitamin D levels and disease rates, in only a handful of conditions have interventional studies proven vitamin D to be effective—where you give people D supplements or placebos, and see what happens. But one of those conditions for which vitamin D supplements appear to genuinely work is helping to prevent mortality.
56 randomized clinical trials, involving nearly 100,000 people between the ages of 18 and 107, mostly women, randomized to four years of vitamin D supplements or sugar pills. Put all the studies together, and those given vitamin D supplements lived longer, also specifically lowering the risk of dying from cancer. Note this effect appeared limited to vitamin D3, though, the type derived from plants and animals—not vitamin D2, the type derived from yeast and mushrooms.
How large an effect was it? It would take 150 people taking vitamin D supplements for five years to save one life, and so if we were talking about a drug, you’d have to weigh that against the cost and side effects of dosing so many people. But when we’re talking about something as safe and cheap as vitamin D supplements, it seems like a bargain to me. A similar analysis pegged the benefit at 11% in terms of reduction of total mortality—which is pretty substantial, potentially offering a life extension benefit on par with exercise. Though no, it does not seem to reduce the adverse effects of earthquakes.
The only concern that was raised is that it may give people license to, like, order an extra doughnut or something. We still have to eat healthy—any longevity benefit from vitamin D would just be a small adjunct to a healthy lifestyle. But for those of us who want all the help they can get, the question then becomes okay, how much should we take? The question I’ll address next.
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J P Ekwaru, J D Zwicker, M F Holick, E Giovannucci, P J Veugelers. The importance of body weight for the dose response relationship of oral vitamin D supplementation and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in healthy volunteers. PLoS One. 2014 Nov 5;9(11):e111265.
G Bjelakovic, L L Gluud, D Nikolova, K Whitfield, J Wetterslev, R G Simonetti, M Bjelakovic, C Gluud. Vitamin D supplementation for prevention of mortality in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jan 10;1:CD007470.
P Welsh, N Sattar. Vitamin D and chronic disease prevention. BMJ. 2014 Apr 1;348:g2280.
E Theodoratou, I TzoulakI, L Zgaga, J P Ioannidis. Vitamin D and multiple health outcomes: umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials. BMJ. 2014 Apr 1;348:g2035.
J C Seida, J Mitri, I N Colmers, S R Majumdar, M B Davidson, A L Edwards, D A Hanley, A G Pittas, L Tjosvold, J A Johnson. Clinical review: Effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on improving glucose homeostasis and preventing diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Oct;99(10):3551-60.
L A Beveridge, A D Struthers, F Khan, R Jorde, R Scragg, H M Macdonald, J A Alvarez, R S Boxer, A Dalbeni, A D Gepner, N M Isbel, T Larsen, J Nagpal, W G Petchey, H Stricker, F Strobel, V S Tangpricha, L Toxqui, M P Vaquero, L Wamberg, A Zittermann, M D Witham; D-PRESSURE Collaboration. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Incorporating Individual Patient Data. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 May;175(5):745-54.
J Wierzbicka, A Piotrowska, M A Żmijewski. The renaissance of vitamin D. Acta Biochim Pol. 2014;61(4):679-86.
R Chowdhury, S Kunutsor, A Vitezova, C Oliver-Williams, S Chowdhury, J C Kiefte-de-Jong, H Khan, C P Baena, D Prabhakaran, M B Hoshen, B S Feldman, A Pan, L Johnson, F Crowe, F B Hu, O H Franco. Vitamin D and risk of cause specific death: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort and randomised intervention studies. BMJ. 2014 Apr 1;348:g1903.
W B Grant. An estimate of the global reduction in mortality rates through doubling vitamin D levels. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;65(9):1016-26.
P Autier, M Boniol, C Pizot, P Mullie. Vitamin D status and ill health: a systematic review. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2014 Jan;2(1):76-89.
W. Mozolowski. Jędrzej Sniadecki (1768-1838) on the Cure of Rickets. Article in Nature 143:121 · December 1938 with 32 Reads.
A F Hess. The Prevention and Cure of Rickets by Sunlight. Am J Public Health (N Y). 1922 Feb;12(2):104-7.