Vitamin D, Cardiovascular Disease & Death
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VITAMIN D, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE & DEATH
There is mounting evidence that Vitamin D plays a much more complex role in maintaining health beyond its primary function in regulating calcium absorption. Increasingly, research data suggests that this hormone-like vitamin may also play important roles in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well. (A comprehensive update on Vitamin D’s cancer prevention properties will appear in my forthcoming book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.”)
The vast majority of published research studies in disease prevention have relied upon low-level research methods, including surveys of patient volunteers and retrospective medical chart reviews. More recently, however, high-quality prospective, randomized cardiovascular disease prevention and cancer prevention clinical research trials have been performed. These high-level studies have the potential to significantly improve lifestyle-based approaches to preventing the diseases that, together, cause the majority of all premature deaths.
A newly published prospective clinical research study, from the Chianti region of Italy, enrolled more than 1,000 adults, aged 65 years and older. All patient volunteers were tested for the level of Vitamin D in their blood when they joined this study, and all of these older adults were then carefully followed for an average of nearly 7 years. During the course of this study, 228 study participants died. The researchers then compared the levels of Vitamin D in the blood of the participants who died during the study with those of the volunteers who survived. (This study is published in the current issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)
The findings of this prospective clinical study were striking. The patient volunteers with the lowest levels of Vitamin D in their blood were more than 2 times as likely to die, from any cause, when compared with the patients who had the highest levels of Vitamin D in their blood. The patients with the lowest Vitamin D levels were also nearly 3 times as likely to die from heart attacks, and other complications related to cardiovascular disease, when compared to the patients with high levels of Vitamin D in their blood. These dramatic findings held up even after the researchers made statistical adjustments for differences in the age, gender, education level, exercise habits, and other health-related factors among these two groups of study participants.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient in converting sunlight into Vitamin D, and multiple research studies have shown that the majority of older adults are deficient in Vitamin D. A growing number of high-level clinical research studies, such as this Italian study, continue to suggest that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and decreased muscle strength in older men and women. Therefore, the importance of this vitamin-hormone in maintaining optimal health is becoming increasingly apparent.
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Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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