People regularly exposed to the sun are more likely to live longer than those who are rarely exposed, academics have said.
A study by the University of South Australia has found that a lack of vitamin D can trigger an early death.
According to the research, one in three adults living in Australia have a vitamin D deficiency.
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Chief author Josh Sutherland said: “While severe vitamin D deficiency is rarer in Australia than elsewhere in the world, it can still affect those who have health vulnerabilities, the elderly, and those who do not acquire enough vitamin D from healthy sun exposure and dietary sources.
“Our study provides strong evidence for the connection between low levels of vitamin D and mortality, and this is the first study of its kind to also include respiratory disease related mortality as an outcome.”
He added: “We used a new genetic method to explore and affirm the non-linear relationships that we’ve seen in observational settings, and through this we’ve been able to give strong evidence for the connection between low vitamin D status and premature death.
“Vitamin D deficiency has been connected with mortality, but as clinical trials have often failed to recruit people with low vitamin D levels – or have been prohibited from including vitamin deficient participants – it’s been challenging to establish casual relationships.”
During the study, the team of scientists examined the health records of more than 300,000 people involved with the UK Biobank.
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They discovered that the participants with higher vitamin D concentrations had a longer lifespan than those with a vitamin D deficiency.
Co-author Professor Elina Hyppönen said: “The take-home message here is simple – the key is in the prevention.
“It is not good enough to think about vitamin D deficiency when already facing life-challenging situations, when early action could make all the difference.”
She concluded: “It is very important to continue public health efforts to ensure the vulnerable and elderly maintain sufficient vitamin D levels throughout the year.”
The study has been published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.