Canadian Vitamin D study: Higher Vitamin D levels could save 37,000 lives a

TORONTO, April 6 /CNW/ - Canada's death rate could fall by as many as 37,000 deaths each year or 16 per cent if Canadians simply increased their daily vitamin D intake to intended levels, says a study conducted by four of the world's leading vitamin D researchers entitled: An Estimate of the Economic Burden and Premature Deaths Due to Vitamin D Deficiency in Canada.

In dollars saved, increased vitamin D blood levels would reduce the economic burden on Canada's health care system by about $14.4 billion, or 7.3 per cent, according to the study.

For millions of Canadians aged six to 79, only 10 per cent are at, or above, the optimal vitamin D level with more than five per cent who are severely deficient, according to data released by Statistics Canada in March. Vitamin D experts agree that optimal levels should be 100-150 nmol/L. The new Canadian study examined the impact of increasing blood levels to 105 nmol/l. (nmol/L refers to reference ranges in a blood test called a calcidiol test.)

"The result of this study strongly suggests the personal and economic burden of disease in Canada could be significantly reduced if optimal vitamin D levels are increased. These results should increase interest by individuals, researchers, organizations and agencies in Canada in assessing the health benefits of higher vitamin D production and intake," said William B. Grant, Ph.D., primary author of the study.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases and adverse pregnancy outcomes. The study found the positive impact on a person's health of increased vitamin D levels would be as follows:


    -  Increasing vitamin D levels from 75 to 105 nmol/L is believed to
       decrease cancer rates by 25 per cent

    Cardiovascular disease

    -  Vitamin D is believed to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by
       25 per cent if levels are increased from 62.5 to 105 nmol/L

    Type 2 diabetes mellitus

    -  A New Zealand study indicates increasing vitamin D levels to above
       80 nmol/L can improve insulin resistance by 12 per cent
    -  Increasing vitamin D levels from 25 to 75 nmol/L results in a 60 per
       cent improvement in insulin sensitivity

    Multiple sclerosis (MS)

    -  Many studies show that ultraviolet-B irradiance and vitamin D reduce
       the risk of MS
    -  If MS is already developed, vitamin D can reduce symptoms

    Influenza, pneumonia

    -  Vitamin D reduces the risk of pneumonia by 30 per cent through
       reducing the cytokine storm following respiratory viral infections
       such as influenza and through inducing production of cathelicidin and
       defensins that have antimicrobial actions

    Pregnancy outcomes

    -  Adequate vitamin D can reduce the risk of primary Cesarean section by
       about 50% by strengthening the uterine muscles
    -  Increasing vitamin D helps with fetal development

Because of the country's northern latitudes, Canadians can't produce vitamin D naturally from the sun for four to six months of the year. Sun exposure in the summer months or UVB exposure from sunbeds, are by far the most abundant sources of vitamin D, making up to 10,000 IU in full-body exposure at non-burning dosages. A glass of milk, in comparison, is fortified with about 100 IU. Some dietary supplements contain 1,000 IU.

Most vitamin D experts now recommend supplements and sensible sun exposure when possible.

"We simply can't ignore the significant health and economic benefits of increased vitamin D levels. This study clearly shows why Canadians need to know their vitamin D blood levels so they can take steps to optimize their health and reduce their risks," said Dr. Susan J. Whiting, of the University of Saskatchewan.

About the study

The study was conducted by: Dr. William Grant' Ph.D. of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC) in San Francisco, CA; Dr. Gerry K. Schwalfenberg of the Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB; Dr. Stephen J. Genuis, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB and Dr. Susan J. Whiting, Ph.D. of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK. The study was sponsored by the Vitamin D Society.

About the Vitamin D Society

The Vitamin D Society is a Canadian non-profit group organized to: increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency; encourage Canadians to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D blood levels tested annually and fund valuable vitamin D research.

SOURCE Vitamin D Society

For further information: For further information: For interviews with William Grant or Susan Whiting, please contact: Katherine Griggs, PUNCH Canada, (416) 360-6522 ext. 237,

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