Will You Live Longer if You Take Vitamin D Supplements?

Will You Live Longer if You Take Vitamin D Supplements?

September 16, 2019 71 By Ewald Bahringer


“Will You Live Longer if You
Take Vitamin D Supplements?” In 1822, a Polish physician
was the first to publish that sunlight could cure the vitamin D
deficiency disease: rickets. His work was ignored by mainstream
medicine for a century, not coming into widespread use until
the 20th century, when wire cages were affixed to tenement buildings so
babies could benefit from the sun. Are we in a similar situation now, where the medical profession has
just not caught up with the science? Researchers have
documented correlations between all sorts of good things
to higher vitamin D levels, even to the point of seeing whether
vitamin D supplementation might reduce the adverse
effects of earthquakes. Seems to help with everything
else, so why not? It’s actually not as
silly as it sounds. Traumatic events like natural disasters can
have a significant psychological impact, which may be affected
by vitamin D status. But when researchers put
supplements to the test, the purported links
often didn’t pan out. This lack of effect may exist in part
because low vitamin D levels may just be a marker for things like
aging, obesity, smoking, and inactivity. Or maybe low vitamin D didn’t lead
to disease, but maybe disease led to low vitamin D — inflammation
can drop D levels within the body. So just because low D levels and
disease seem to be correlated doesn’t mean that vitamin D
deficiency is the cause. While the majority of observational
studies may show a link, where you just measure D levels and
disease rates, in only a handful of conditions have interventional
studies proven vitamin D to be effective, where you give people D supplements
or placebos and see what happens. But one of those conditions for
which vitamin D supplements appear to genuinely work is
helping to prevent mortality. 56 randomized clinical trials,
involving nearly 100,000 people between the ages of 18
and 107, mostly women, randomized to four years of vitamin D
supplements or sugar pills. Put all the studies together and those given
vitamin D supplements lived longer, also specifically lowering
the risk of dying from cancer. Note this effect appeared limited
to vitamin D3 though, the type derived from
plants and animals, not vitamin D2, the type derived
from yeast and mushrooms. How large an effect was it? It would take 150 people taking vitamin D
supplements for 5 years to save one life, and so if we were talking
about a drug, you’d have to weigh that
against the cost and side effects of dosing
so many people. But when we’re talking about
something as safe and cheap as vitamin D supplements
it seems like a bargain to me. A similar analysis pegged the
benefit at 11% in terms of reduction of total mortality,
which is pretty substantial, potentially offering a life extension
benefit on par with exercise. Though no, it does not seem to reduce
the adverse effects of earthquakes. The only concern that was raised
is that it may give people license to like order an extra doughnut
or something. We still have to eat healthy. Any longevity benefit from vitamin D would
just be a small adjunct to a healthy lifestyle. But for those of us who want
all the help they can get, the question then becomes
OK, how much should we take? The question I’ll address next . . .