It’s April, so go out and get some sun

It’s officially spring–although the meteorologists in New England have not yet received the memo! But the sun is rising earlier and getting higher in the sky. And it’s time for you to spend some time outside soaking it in. And boosting your stores of vitamin D, which probably took a hit, especially this winter.

Some sun on your skin will feel great. And it may even decrease your risk of premature death, according to a new study.

The new study also points out how inadequate the government’s nutritional recommendations can truly be. Especially when it comes to vitamin D. In fact, the government is still dithering over healthy vitamin D levels, as I pointed out in a recent Daily Dispatch.

For example, two years ago, the U.S. Institute of Medicine revised its recommendations about healthy blood levels for vitamin D. It decided we didn’t need 75 nmol/L of vitamin D in the blood to stay healthy. We only need to get blood levels to 50 nmol/L.

This confuses patients and doctors alike. Plus, it’s probably wrong–grossly wrong–according to the new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN).

The AJCN is an excellent source of scientific research. Especially when it’s conducted by German scientists. Our German colleagues know how to conduct investigations on human biology. And German scientists are way ahead of us when it comes to investigating natural and nutritional approaches to health and medicine.

So it’s not surprising to find an excellent study in the April 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For this study, a team of German scientists uncovered a strong link between low levels of vitamin D and increases in mortality.

The researchers followed a group of nearly 10,000 men and women ages 50 to 74 years. The researchers measured the subjects’ vitamin D levels (25-hydroxy vitamin D) at the start of the study. They measured another 5,500 participants at the five-year follow-up. And they followed all the participants for the rest of their lives.

The researchers recorded all deaths during an average follow-up period of 10 years. During the follow-up period, about 10 percent of study participants died. Forty-three percent of them from cancer. Thirty-five percent from heart disease. And five percent of respiratory diseases.

Vitamin D deficiency strongly predicted higher death rates from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. As well as overall death rates.

In addition, the researchers noticed a distinct trend. The lower the vitamin D levels at the outset, the higher the mortality rate.

And mortality rates started to increase with vitamin D levels below 75 nmol/L. In other words, mortality rates started to increase when original blood levels tested below 75 nmol/L. Plus, the researchers found that participants with vitamin D levels below 30 nmol/L at the beginning of the study had the most pronounced increases in mortality.

But wait, the government said we only need blood levels of 50 nmol/L to stay healthy. Clearly, this is wrong.

Without a doubt, this is the best kind of epidemiological study. With the strongest kind of results. And with conclusions that can translate in the real world.

So what does this study mean for you?

Maintaining higher vitamin D will probably help protect you against premature death. And likely against all three leading causes of death.

You can do something now to help maintain healthy vitamin D levels. And reduce your chances of premature death.

It’s April. And the sun is now high enough in the sky for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere to activate vitamin D in their skin. So go out and get some healthy sun exposure.

Going outdoors is good for you in many other ways as well. For example, a new study shows that exercise done outdoors is healthier than the same amount done indoors. I’ll explain more about that in an upcoming Dispatch.

And for the rest of the year, you can build-up healthy vitamin D levels with appropriate high-quality supplements.

If you think you don’t get enough vitamin D, ask your doctor to measure your levels the next time you have routine blood testing. And ask to see the results. Pay attention to levels below 75 nmol/L. And especially to anything below 30 nmol/L.


1. Am J Clin Nutr April 2013 ajcn.047712