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Vitamin D is essential for a long life

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Vitamin D—the ‘sunshine vitamin’—could be the key nutrient that’s needed for living a long life.

People with low levels of the vitamin are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely from heart disease, cancer or respiratory complications, say researchers from the University of South Australia.

Up to 50 percent of populations in northern hemispheres are ‘severely deficient’ in the vitamin, the result of a combination of weaker sunshine and ‘safe sun’ health policies.

The researchers analysed data from more than 307,000 participants in the UK Biobank project, and there were 18,700 deaths in the 14 years of the study.  The researchers discovered that deaths were more common in people with vitamin D deficiency, and the risk of premature death was 25 percent greater than in those with optimum levels, characterised as 50 nanomoles per litre of blood (nmol/L).

After taking into account other factors, the researchers said there was a direct causal link between vitamin deficiency and premature death.

The nutrient’s protective effect was ‘L-shaped’, the researchers said.  In other words, there was no further benefit beyond having optimal levels.

Aside from getting more sunshine—sunbathing for up to an hour in the summer so the skin reddens but doesn’t burn—dietary sources of the vitamin include fatty fish, such as salmon, swordfish and tuna, and cod liver oil.

Annals of Internal Medicine, 2022; doi: 10.7326/M21-3324

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