Health & Medicine

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New research bolsters vitamin D's role in health

CHICAGO — New research linking low ­vitamin D levels with deaths from heart disease and other causes bolsters mounting evidence about the ”sunshine“ vitamin's role in good health.

Patients with the lowest blood levels of ­vitamin D were about two times more likely to die from any cause during the next eight years than those with the highest levels, the study found.

The link with heart-related deaths was particularly strong in those with low vitamin D levels.

Experts say the results shouldn't be seen as a reason to start popping vitamin D pills or to spend hours in the sun, which is the main source for vitamin D.

For one thing, megadoses of vitamin D pills can be dangerous, and skin-cancer risks from too much sunshine are well known. It can't be determined from this type of study whether lack of vitamin D caused the deaths, or whether increasing vitamin D intake would make any difference.

Low vitamin D levels could reflect age, lack of physical activity and other lifestyle factors that also affect health, said American Heart Association spokeswoman Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University.

Still, she said, the study is an important ­addition to an emerging area of research.

”This is something that should not be ­ignored,“ Lichtenstein said.

The study involved 3,258 men and women in southwest Germany.