Dr. Keerthana Ramesh
Vitamin D levels may predict future health risks, death in older men
14 September 2020
Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones, as well as protecting against infections and diseases. Vitamin D deficiency is a major global health problem, with estimates suggesting that about 1 billion people have low levels of vitamin D in their blood.
Health risks of vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is particularly common in older people. Also, studies are increasingly showing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a range of health conditions associated with aging.
Researchers have linked low blood levels of vitamin D with major age-related health problems, including:
increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
type 2 diabetes
Forms of vitamin D
There are several forms, or metabolites, of vitamin D in the body. However, the medical community typically uses the total amount of these metabolites to determine people’s vitamin D status.
The body converts the prohormone form, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D, to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which scientists consider the active form of vitamin D in the body.
However, more than 99% of all metabolites of vitamin D in the blood are bound to proteins, so only a tiny portion of it can be biologically active. This explains why the free, active forms of the vitamin may be a better predictor of current and future health than the total levels.
These data further confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a negative impact on general health and can be predictive of a higher risk of death,” explains Dr. Antonio.
While these findings are promising, the study was observational in nature, so the researchers could not determine the underlying mechanisms. Additionally, it was not possible to gather specific information about the causes of death of the participants.
“Most studies focus on the association between total 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and age-related disease and mortality. As 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is the active form of vitamin D in our body, it was possible it could have been a stronger predictor for disease and mortality. It has also been debated if the total or free vitamin D levels should be measured,” explains Dr. Antonio
Further investigation into vitamin D levels and their relationship with poor health may be a promising area for future studies.