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Over 55's with vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to die

3 min read

It is thought that almost half of all adults in the UK have some degree of vitamin D deficiency. A deficiency can cause problems when there is not enough of the vitamin to properly absorb the required levels of calcium and phosphate. Mild to moderate vitamin D deficiency can lead to a weakening of the bones – a condition called osteoporosis which increases the risk of bone fractures. More severe levels of deficiency can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition called osteomalacia in adults. A clinical review by the British Medical Journal in 2010 found that vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of developing heart disease, bowel and breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Professor Cedric Garland said: 'Three years ago, the Institute of Medicine concluded that having a too-low blood level of vitamin D was hazardous.'

Additional scientific research has backed the conclusion

Support of these findings has been provided by a study conducted by scientists from the University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine - they found that people with an average age of 55 who had lower blood levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to die prematurely as those with higher levels. The research in fact takes the review by the British Medical Journal one step further:  'The 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) blood level cut off assumed from the Institute Of Medicine report was based solely on the association of low vitamin D with risk of bone disease. 'This new finding is based on the association of low vitamin D with risk of premature death from all causes, not just bone diseases. ”Prof Garland said the blood level amount of vitamin D associated with about half of the death rate was 30 ng/ml. Two-thirds of the U.S. population has an estimated blood vitamin D level below 30 ng/ml. Prof Heather Hofflich added: 'This study should give the medical community and public substantial reassurance that vitamin D is safe when used in appropriate doses up to 4,000 International Units (IU) per day.'However, it’s always wise to consult your doctor when changing your intake of vitamin D and to have your blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D checked annually. 'Daily intakes above 4,000 IU per day may be appropriate for some patients under medical supervision. 'The study published in the American Journal of Public Health reported the average age when the blood was drawn was 55 years with the average length of follow-up was nine years. It involved 566,583 people from 14 countries.

How do I get Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is made by the body under the skin when it is exposed to summer sunlight. However, if you are out in the sun, take care to protect your skin with sunscreen before you turn red or get burnt.

Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods - good sources are:

  • oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
  • eggs
  • fortified fat spreads
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • powdered milk

Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need by eating a healthy balanced diet and by getting some summer sun.

However if you are aged 55 years and over and not exposed to much sun you should also take a daily supplement - you can buy single vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets or online from a supplement retailer!

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.