Vitamin D and All-Cause Mortality

This is from August, but I just stumbled on it. Here's a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Risk of Mortality in the General Population

Conclusion: The lowest quartile of 25(OH)D level (<17.8 ng/mL) is independently associated with all-cause mortality in the general population.

I like this kind of science because, duh, why trade risk of one disease for another? That's the big blind spot with so much of the research surrounding obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. They associate one disease with one thing (like high cholesterol with heart disease — but not really), only to find out that "the fix" increases risk for another disease, or worse, as in the case of low cholesterol, increases risk of…death. That's right, particularly for an elderly person. If you're patting yourself on the back over low cholesterol, studies repeatedly show that low cholesterol is associated with higher rates of dying. In other words, on average, people with high cholesterol simply live longer. So, go ahead and undertake questionable dietary habits and take questionable drugs in the pursuit of a questionable association, only to die earlier — only not of a heart attack. Yay; you win!

Skeptical? After all, you probably didn't hear about this one on the evening news, didj'a (it would have been in conflict with the Lipitor commercials)? So here:

Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in elderly people. "Only the group with low cholesterol concentration at both examinations had a significant association with mortality."

Low Cholesterol Levels Associated with Increased Mortality

Yet Another Study Shows Low Cholesterol Increases Risk Of Early Death!

That was just a sloppy and quick Googling. I could give you dozens more.

So, anyway, now that we understand the importance of looking at all-cause mortality over cherry picking various diseases independently of risk factors for others, let's tun back to vitamin D and mortality. ScienceDaily did a good writeup on it. They quote co-lead investigator Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S.

Our results make it much more clear that all men and women concerned about their overall health should more closely monitor their blood levels of vitamin D, and make sure they have enough…

We think we have additional evidence to consider adding vitamin D deficiency as a distinct and separate risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease, putting it alongside much better known and understood risk factors, such as age, gender, family history, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity and diabetes…

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  1. Dr Dan on January 26, 2009 at 01:58

    Yes I have read those cholesterol studies also. Those with lower cholesterol tended to die more of cancer. Hmmmm. Heart disease or cancer? I think I would just rather go for the low mortality thanks.

  2. Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later on November 29, 2009 at 02:15

    Hi Richard – I’ve just read this paper:

    which was mentioned by Matt Metzgar in a recent post “Vitamin D: An Alternative View”


    It’s a well-written paper, but I have to be honest, I was more than a few metres out of my depth on the science. I got the gist, and came away wondering whether vitamin D supplementation is the no-brainer I had thought.

    Would be very interested to know what you make of it.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 30, 2009 at 11:34

      I looked into that a year or so ago, consulted with Stephan Guyenet and others and concluded that Marshall is full of crap and is abusing science.

      I believe that Dr. Davis has commented on this on his blog, as has Dr. Cannell of the Vit D Council.

  3. Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later on November 30, 2009 at 13:18

    Thanks Richard. I’ll take a look.

  4. Chadwick on November 30, 2009 at 13:32

    While I do share the sentiment here about the benefits of Vitamin D, I think oppositional articles like this serve a purpose whether it is good or bad science. It is always good to have skeptics, as they force the “incumbents” to continually prove themselves.

    Fortunately, for us in the paleo crowd, Vitamin D does seem to be associated with lower incidence of chronic diseases, not to mention the mental health benefits of being in the sun.

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