The single most important thing you can do to prevent premature death

As the U.S. government science bureaucrats continue dithering over recommendations about vitamin D intake, some real scientists in Germany (and yes, even some right here at home) are making it perfectly clear: Vitamin D prevents premature death. Plus, it reduces death rates from all causes.

So why is the U.S. hemming and hawing—and confusing patients and doctors alike?

Blind leading the blind

Over the past three decades, many scientists who study chronic diseases have stumbled into studying diet and nutrition. They often lack any understanding of nutrition as a fundamental part of human biology and behavior. And despite their ignorance on matters of nutrition, they publish their findings. And the government science bureaucrats jump on the research—and the politically correct bandwagon.

But one source has always been an exception to the rule. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) doesn’t report spurious statistical findings like those that can be found in other journals.

And across the Atlantic, German scientists tend to put out reliable information on nutrition. That’s because they know how to conduct scientific investigations on human biology. They have consistently been way ahead of the United States in investigating natural and nutritional approaches to health and medicine.

Research you can trust

The trustworthy team at AJCN published a report in the April 2013 issue that takes a close look at vitamin D.1

In it, a team of scientists measured vitamin D levels in nearly 10,000 people ages 50 to 74 years. Another 5,500 participants were measured at 5 year-follow-up. All deaths were recorded during an average follow-up period of 9.5 years. During the follow-up period about 10 percent of study participants died: 43.3 percent from cancer, 35.0 percent from heart disease, and 5.5 percent of respiratory diseases.

People with the lowest vitamin D levels were more likely to have died of any cause, and of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease specifically.

They also found a dose-response relationship between low vitamin D levels and death—that is, the lower the vitamin D, the higher the mortality rate.

This is the best kind of epidemiological study, with the strongest kind of results that can be performed on human populations. It makes it perfectly clear: Higher vitamin D levels protect against premature death—as well as all the leading causes of death.

It’s never too late to up your D

Plenty of studies prove the dangerous effects of lack of vitamin D in childhood, but these highlight the fact that even in adults—and older adults at that—low levels of D have bad health effects.

On the flip side, that means that even later in life, you can improve your health and longevity by increasing your vitamin D intake.

And here’s some more good news: Vitamin D can be free. All you need to do is expose your skin to the sun (it’s the perfect time of year to get started!) and your body will activate its own vitamin D.

For the rest of the year you can build up healthy vitamin D levels with appropriate high-quality supplements. If you have any reason to believe you are not getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor to measure your levels the next time you have a routine blood sample taken for testing. If you’re below 75 nmol/L—and especially below 30 nmol/L—it’s time to add a high-quality supplement.

1. “Vitamin D deficiency and mortality risk in the general population: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies,” Am J Clin Nutr 2013 97: 782-793