Vitamin D helps our body absorb the calcium it needs for good health. Too-low levels of vitamin D can lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels, pain in your bones, joints or muscles, and an increased risk of osteoporosis. But vitamin deficiency is also associated with a higher risk of death overall (also known as “all-cause mortality”). The reasons for this are not clear, nor is it clear how it is associated with specific causes of death.
Researchers used Health 2020 data to give a more detailed picture of the link between vitamin D levels and cause-specific death (5). They measured the levels of vitamin D in blood samples from over 5,000 Health 2020 participants and analysed their health data.
Higher vitamin D levels were associated with a lower risk of death from cancer, especially colorectal cancer, as well as from respiratory diseases, (especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and from digestive system diseases. Any associations of vitamin D with diabetes mortality and with death due to cardiovascular disease remain unclear, and require further study.
5. Heath AK, Hodge AM, Ebeling PR, Kvaskoff D, Eyles DW, Giles GG, et al. Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and cause-specific mortality in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2020;198:105612.
The name “vitamins” is given to types of molecules that our body needs but cannot make by itself and, therefore, needs to get from other sources – usually food.
Vitamin D is a special case: our skin cells make vitamin D when they are exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in small amounts in some foods, such as eggs and fatty fish, but it is very difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. The major source of vitamin D is via exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation.