Vitamin D helps one live longer

14 September, 2007

It has been known for years that vitamin D is good for the bones, but new research suggests that taking a vitamin D pill a day might extend one’s life.
The findings, published in the latest issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, add to the growing medical literature about the benefits of what is
sometimes called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because vitamin D is produced by the skin in response to sunlight.

Recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiencies to higher risk of cancer, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. It could play a role in reducing heart disease and preventing preeclampsia in pregnant women.

Dr Philippe Autier, a co-author of the study, says “it is very new to see the effects of vitamin D on organs different than the bones. These are very ordinary doses. You don’t need four or five pills a day. You should probably get rid of all the other vitamins in the medicine cabinet.”

Dr Autier is a researcher at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

Meanwhile, people are being told about the new benefits of vitamins.

On September 10, 2007, a team led by scientists at Johns Hopkins reported that vitamin C inhibits the growth of some tumors in mice. In recent years, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants were praised as having miracle properties. However, when more research was done, they lost some of their luster.

One trial in 2006 showed that patients with neck cancer who received large doses of vitamins C, E, and beta carotene experienced fewer side effects of
cancer treatments, but in the end they died at twice the rate of those who did not get vitamins.

Dr Philippe Autier’s analysis looked at 18 trials involving vitamin D supplements that included over 57,000 patients and evaluated doses ranging from 300 international units (IU) to 2,000 IU. Most commercially available supplements contain 400 to 600 IU.

Over an average of nearly six years, those who took vitamin D had a 7% lower risk of death from all causes than those who did not.

Some scientists say that more years of study would give better clues as to how large a role vitamin D plays in decreasing mortality. Others point out that while there was a statistically significant 7% drop in mortality in Dr Autier’s analysis, because of the size of the study that only accounted for a difference of 117 people who died in the control groups as compared with those who took vitamin D supplements.

Some researchers on vitamin D believe that as people have spent more and more time indoors, as opposed to the long stretches spent outdoors and uncovered in agrarian times, they have developed serious vitamin D deficiencies. According to them, levels that are considered normal in the United States are one-fifth of the levels of 10,000 years ago.

The link between the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and cancers can be seen in new data released by the United Nations, which show cancer incidence rates in 177 countries in the world. As one moves farther from the Equator, cancer levels rise.

The most severe vitamin D deficiencies are associated with rickets, a disease that weakens the bones, though it is not common as it was before
scientific advances were made in the early 20th century.




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