|REUTERS/Miguel Vidal |
Doctors and herbalists alike have long touted the many benefits of vitamin D, but a new study in Canada's leading medical journal suggests people with low levels of the vitamin may actually live longer.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that uses calcium and phosphorous to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Your body makes it after exposure to sunlight. Deficiencies can cause rickets and osteoporosis.
Recent studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to diabetes, allergies, cancer, heart disease and mental-health problems — but causation has never been proven.
Dutch researchers looked at 380 families with at least two siblings over 90. They also looked at their offspring and the offspring's partners to understand the role of both genetics and environment.
After controlling for factors that affect vitamin D levels — age, sex, size, kidney function and supplement use — they found longevity in a family is linked with low levels of vitamin D.
The offspring of nonagenarians — people over 90 — with at least one nonagenarian sibling, had lower levels of vitamin D. They also had a lower frequency of common genetic variants in the CYP2R1 gene, which predisposes people to higher levels of vitamin D.
"These findings support an association between low vitamin D levels and familial longevity," the study's authors concluded.
So why have so many diseases been linked to low vitamin D? It could be other factors that are, coincidentally, connected to the vitamin's production, the researchers said.
For example, sickly or frail people may simply have lower levels of vitamin D because they don't get much sunlight. Or people with heart disease may have lower levels because they're not getting enough exercise, another factor in vitamin D production.
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