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Vitamin D May Help Fight Serious Infection

Vitamin D May Help Fight Serious Infection 
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Vitamin D is important in the prevention of chronic diseases
The evidence continues to build for the case of vitamin D and the importance of getting enough of the sunshine vitamin for overall health and disease prevention. Now a study in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine suggests that higher vitamin D levels may prolong survival in people with serious infections.

Higher vitamin D levels prolong life in seriously ill

In this study, 130 critically ill people were assessed for vitamin D levels and time until death. The majority of the participants were admitted to the intensive care unit or hospital with serious infections. Vitamin D levels were measured at the time of admission using a commonly used test (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]).

The average vitamin D level among the participants was very low (14 ng/ml), indicating a vitamin D deficiency. Of the 44% of the participants who died within 60 days of hospitalization, those with low vitamin D levels (below 20 ng/ml) died an average of 9 days sooner than those with higher vitamin D levels (above 20 ng/ml) .

Prior studies suggest that vitamin D insufficiency may be a risk factor for sepsis (serious widespread infection), and the authors of this study make the case that vitamin D supplementation may possibly help prevent and/or treat people with serious infection. They comment, "Our results provide important background information to perform larger scale, intervention-based trials of adjunctive [supplemental] vitamin D therapy in a variety of clinical settings, including further studies in the management of human sepsis syndrome and other critical illnesses."

Many health benefits linked to higher D levels

Vitamin D helps every system in our body work properly including our immune and cardiovascular systems and is also important for sugar (glucose) metabolism and bone health. It's no wonder then that increasing research reveals the importance of getting your D:

  • Prolongs life. In addition to this study, prior studies have shown that a healthy vitamin D level may prolong a person's life. In fact, a recent study showed that people who supplemented with vitamin D had a 50% lower risk of dying from all causes and/or cardiovascular disease.
  • Protects against chronic disease. Many studies have shown that vitamin D is important in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. For instance, studies have shown that people with higher vitamin D levels may have a lower risk of various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.

How much vitamin D is enough?

Too little D or too much vitamin D is not good for your health. Although experts do not agree on exactly how much vitamin D a person needs to prevent disease and maintain health, the recommended daily allowance for most adults was recently increased to 600 IU per day and 800 IU per day for adults over age 70. Other people may need more and some need less. Talk with a knowledgeable doctor about the amount that is right for you and the risks and benefits of supplementation.

(Q J Med 2012;doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcs014)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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