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Vitamin D plus calcium lower death risk in elderly

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By David Liu, PHD

Friday Sept 14, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a range of health conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among other things.  A new study in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that taking vitamin D and calcium supplements together reduces risk of premature death in elderly people.

Lars Rejnmark, M.D., Ph.D., Dr.Med.Sc.  of Aarhus University in Aarhus C, Denmark and colleagues conducted the study and found risk for premature death was lower in elderly people who took both vitamin D and calcium supplements, compared to those who did not take any.

The study was based on data on mortality from 24 randomized controlled trials in which vitamin D was given either alone or with calcium supplements. A total of 13 trials involved 1000 participants each and 8 trials were included in individual patients data analysis.  All 70,528 randomized participants  with 86.8% females had a median age of 70, which ranged from 62 to 77 years.

Participants who took vitamin D with or without calcium were 7 percent less likely to die during a 3-year follow-up compared with those who did not take any.  However, taking vitamin D supplements alone was not associated with reduced risk of premature death while vitamin D was taken together with calcium supplements, the risk was reduced.

To prevent one death, 151 people would have to take vitamin D plus calcium supplements for three years, according to the study.

Similar associations were also found in trial level meta-analysis of data from 24 trials with 88,097 participants.  In this analysis, those who took both vitamin D and calcium were 6 percent less likely to die, but taking vitamin D alone was not associated with reduced death risk.

The researchers concluded "Vitamin D with calcium reduces mortality in the elderly, whereas available data do not support an effect of vitamin D alone."

The leading causes for death are heart disease and cancer.   Early epidemiological studies have associated vitamin D deficiency with increased risk for more than 100 health conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrom, high blood pressure, dementia, obesity, depression and other mental disorders.  The current study seems to have confirmed that taking vitamin D (along with calcium) can reduce risk of heart disease and cancer.

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