Low blood levels of vitamin D represent a significant health concern. New research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrates that small increases in vitamin D can add precious years to life. The vast majorities of adults (and many children) are grossly deficient in circulating blood levels of vitamin D.
Eur J Clin Nutr
W B Grant
An estimate of the global reduction in mortality rates through doubling vitamin D levels
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011; 65: 1016-1026
The goal of this work is to estimate the reduction in mortality rates for six geopolitical regions of the world under the assumption that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels increase from 54 to 110 nmol/l.
This study is based on interpretation of the journal literature relating to the effects of solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) and vitamin D in reducing the risk of disease and estimates of the serum 25(OH)D level–disease risk relations for cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and respiratory infections. The vitamin D-sensitive diseases that account for more than half of global mortality rates are CVD, cancer, respiratory infections, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus. Additional vitamin D-sensitive diseases and conditions that account for 2 to 3% of global mortality rates are Alzheimer’s disease, falls, meningitis, Parkinson’s disease, maternal sepsis, maternal hypertension (pre-eclampsia) and multiple sclerosis. Increasing serum 25(OH)D levels from 54 to 110 nmol/l would reduce the vitamin D-sensitive disease mortality rate by an estimated 20%.
The reduction in all-cause mortality rates range from 7.6% for African females to 17.3% for European females. Reductions for males average 0.6% lower than for females. The estimated increase in life expectancy is 2 years for all six regions.
Increasing serum 25(OH)D levels is the most cost-effective way to reduce global mortality rates, as the cost of vitamin D is very low and there are few adverse effects from oral intake and/or frequent moderate UVB irradiance with sufficient body surface area exposed.