On the other hand, he said, vitamin D supplements may have more impact on the odds of dying from a disease.
His team found a clear link between blood vitamin D levels and the risk of premature death – especially among people younger than 60: Those with levels of 10 nmol / L (nanomol per liter) or less had almost three times higher risk of death during the study, compared to those with adequate levels (50 nmol / L)
However, middle-aged and younger people with vitamin D levels at or above 90 nmol / L had a lower risk of death than those at the 50 mark.
In general, vitamin D concentrations of 50 nmol / L or higher were considered to be high enough for general health, according to the US National Institute of Health.
When the researchers zeroed in on the causes of death, it was found that vitamin D levels showed only weak links to heart disease and cancer. Instead, people with low levels (under 50) had a more than four-fold risk of dying from diabetes complications, compared to people with adequate levels.
It is not clear why. But, says Marculescu, there are reasonable reasons why vitamin D levels would be particularly linked to diabetes: The vitamin, which acts as a hormone in the body, helps regulate the immune system. It's relevant to type 1
Vitamin D is also important for the cells that produce the hormone insulin – which regulates blood sugar – and for the body's sensitivity to insulin. It is relevant for type 2 diabetes, Marculescu pointed out.
Currently, he said, the results found "reinforces the already very strong foundation for stepping up vitamin D supplements, especially during childhood and at younger ages."
he pointed to recommendations from the Endocrine Society. They suggest that adults receive 1,500 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day, while children and teenagers receive 600 to 1,000 IU.
The body naturally synthesizes vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin, but cold climates – and concerns about exposure to the sun – can limit that source.
Diekman suggested that people should control their vitamin D levels in the blood. If it's low, she said, talk to your doctor about how you can increase it – whether it's through supplements or foods like vitamin D-enriched dairy products, juices or cereals.