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New study finds vitamin D deficiency linked to early death | Canberra Weekly

It’s a vitamin we get from the sun, but despite its ample availability, one in three Australian adults are still mildly, moderately or severely deficient in vitamin D.

Now, new research from the University of South Australia provides strong evidence that vitamin D deficiency is linked to premature death, leading to calls for people to follow guidelines for healthy vitamin D levels.

Published in Annals of Internal Medicinethe study found that the more severe the vitamin D deficiency, the greater the risk of mortality.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps maintain good health and keep our bones and muscles strong and healthy.

First author and UniSA PhD candidate Josh Sutherland says that while vitamin D is associated with mortality, causal effects have been difficult to establish.

“While severe vitamin D deficiency is rarer in Australia than elsewhere in the world, it can still affect those with health vulnerabilities, the elderly and those who do not get enough vitamin D from healthy sunlight and dietary sources,” says Sutherland.

“Our study provides strong evidence of an association between low vitamin D levels and mortality, and this is the first study of its kind to include respiratory disease-related mortality as an outcome.

“We used a new genetic method to explore and confirm the non-linear relationships we saw in observational settings, and were able to provide strong evidence of an association between low vitamin D status and premature death.”

“Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with mortality, but because clinical trials often failed to recruit people with low vitamin D levels—or were prohibited from including participants with vitamin D deficiency—it has been challenging to establish causal relationships.”

The Mendelian randomization study evaluated 307,601 records from the UK Biobank. Low vitamin D levels were recorded as less than <25 nmol/l with a mean concentration detected of 45.2 nmol/l. Over a 14-year follow-up period, the researchers found that the risk of death decreased significantly with increased vitamin D concentrations, with the strongest effects seen in patients with severe deficiency. Lead researcher and director of UniSA’s Australian Center for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, says more research is now needed to develop effective public health strategies that can help meet national guidelines and reduce the risk of premature death associated with low vitamin D levels. “The take home message here is simple – prevention is the key. It’s not good enough to think about vitamin D deficiency when you’re already facing life-threatening situations where early action can be crucial,” says Professor Hyppönen. “It is very important to continue public health efforts to ensure that vulnerable and elderly people maintain adequate levels of vitamin D throughout the year.”

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