Written by By Mairead Corrigan, CNN
New evidence has just emerged that could provide an answer to a headache many have had for a long time: when it comes to the connection between Vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of death.
The study found that those with low levels of the vitamin have a higher risk of death from all causes. It is more dangerous to have low vitamin D levels if you are also predisposed to a form of heart disease called myocardial infarction.
Holly Lennox, director of the Diabetes Research Institute at National University of Ireland, Galway, led the research.
The findings raise a stark and alarmingly common message — that most of us should be reaching for our sunblock, even in the winter.
Dr. Lennox and her team discovered that the vitamin plays a key role in “reducing inflammation, cell death, blood clotting and oxidative stress, allowing the body to initiate inflammation-relieving responses,” according to the National Institutes of Health .
When levels of Vitamin D drop below a certain threshold, immune and inflammatory responses become impaired, Lennox said in a statement on the NIH website
The team studied nearly 5,500 participants aged between 30 and 69 in the US. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Turning the heads of dermatologists
The study, which was published on Tuesday in JAMA, also provided more evidence that we have to be diligent about making the most of our Vitamin D intake.
“There is a myth that the levels of Vitamin D are quite high at the beginning of winter, and we shouldn’t worry about taking it,” said Dr. Edward Kim, dermatologist and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology, in a statement emailed to CNN.
It’s natural to have vitamin D levels peak in the fall and peak again during the spring, when your skin is exposed to the sun, he explained.
Skin that is particularly attractive to the sun produces more Vitamin D than skin that stays covered up in the shade, he added.
Before taking vitamin D, Dr. Kim suggests using the best sunscreen known to man. “One of the problems that we have in the United States is that there isn’t one sunscreen that works for everybody,” he said.
Dr. Kimberly Liddle, who practices pediatrics and gastroenterology at Farrar Family Family Physicians in Atlanta, advises her patients to make sure they eat enough food that will raise their levels.
Vitamin D content in fish oil supplements is one way that people with low vitamin D levels can raise their levels, although a 2012 review of studies in the British Medical Journal found no proof that supplemental vitamin D increased life expectancy.
The new study could help to quell debate over whether Vitamin D is needed or worthwhile in living.