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Sunshine and oily fish

“It may sound technical but it is highly relevant, as we have not been aware of this earlier. Still, a large number of people have been consuming vitamin D supplements. This only makes sense if there is a direct causal relation, and the low vitamin D level actually causes diseases that lead to premature death. It is this relation we have shown with our research,” Børge Nordestgaard explains.

“However, we still do not know how much vitamin D we need and from what source. Supplements, which most people consider the obvious solution, may not even be ideal. Our study only shows that low vitamin D levels as such are dangerous. Future research will have to clarify how we solve that problem."

Professor Lars Rejnmark from the Dept. of Endocrinology at Aarhus University Hospital and one of Denmark’s leading researchers in vitamin D deficiency, calls the new study “exciting and a reason to believe that vitamin D is beneficial for human health.”

“It shows that people live longer if they are born with genes that secure plenty of vitamin D in their blood. Unfortunately, the study does not answer the question whether vitamin D supplements can improve our health and make us live longer,” he says.

The sun is the single most important vitamin D source but we are also able to get a certain amount of the vitamin from oily fish, eggs, meat, and certain types of dairy products. Moreover, vitamin D is available as supplements. The Danish Food and Medicines Authority recommends vitamin D supplements to people older than 70 years, pregnant women, and children under the age of two years. Also, supplements are recommended for those who do not get out in the sun enough, and for dark-skinned individuals.

Although nearly 500,000 Danes suffer from what is considered “substantial vitamin D deficiency” during the winter period, Professor Lars Rejnmark still does not consider it necessary for the Danish health authorities to change their recommendations for supplementation, as there are no studies that provide conclusive evidence that this is the solution, including the solution for healthy individuals.

British Medical Journal finds the Danish study to be that interesting, it has accompanied the research with an editorial in which it is stated that the study is “well conducted but is subject to potential limitations” and should therefore not be over-interpreted. “The epidemiological cliché that more data are required to confirm these findings once again applies,” the editorial mentions.

(The article is an English translation of the article “For Lidt D-vitamin er Livsfarligt” from Politiken, Nov. 18., 2014)