It’s that time of year when the media loves to terrify the public about how dangerous the sun is. The evidence for the health benefits of sunlight and vitamin D are overwhelming, yet all I can do is shake my head in disbelief as I see people massage the sunscreen on themselves and their children as if it’s some magical protection against a foreign invader. There’s nothing foreign or invasive about our sun, in fact researchers are now identifying how blocking its rays may actually increase the risk of heart attacks and dying.
A study — published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition — reveals that adults with low vitamin D levels have a 30% greater risk of death than people who had higher levels.
Led by Ellen Smit of Oregon State University, USA, the randomised, nationally representative study found that overall, people who were frail had more than double the risk of death than those who were not frail. However, frail adults with low levels of vitamin D had triple the risk of mortality than those were not frail and who had higher levels of the sunshine vitamin.
Smit noted that whilst past studies have separately associated frailty and low vitamin D with a greater mortality risk, the new study is the first to look at the combined effect.
In general, those who had lower vitamin D levels were more likely to be frail, the researchers said. However, they noted that because of the cross-sectional nature of the survey they could not determine if low vitamin D contributed to frailty, or whether frail people became vitamin D deficient because of health problems.
Smit argued however, that longitudinal analysis on death showed it may not matter which came first.
“If you have both, it may not really matter which came first because you are worse off and at greater risk of dying than other older people who are frail and who don’t have low vitamin D,” she said.
The authors concluded that the results of their study suggest that low serum 25(OH)D is associated with frailty, adding that there are â€˜additive joint effects’ of serum 25(OH)D and frailty on all-cause mortality in older adults.