Vitamin D Could Save Your Life

But not in supplement form

Apr 2, 2014
Outside Magazine

Sunshine: the best way to get your vitamin D.    Getty Images/iStockphoto

Two studies on vitamin D recently released in the British Medical Journal offer new insights about the benefits of the sunshine nutrient. Long believed to play a vital role in the cardiovascular and immune systems, researchers now believe it all depends on which type of vitamin D you consume.

After studying more than a million people, researchers led by Dr. Oscar H. Franco of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands observed significant correlations between disease and blood levels of vitamin D. Adults who had lower levels of vitamin D in their systems were 35 percent more likely to die from heart disease, 14 percent more likely to die from cancer, and faced an overall higher risk of mortality.

The catch is that vitamin D2, which is found in supplements, seemed to have no impact, reports the New York Times. Rather, vitamin D3—found in fish and dairy products, and the type the body produces naturally when exposed to sunlight—showed an 11 percent reduction in mortality from all causes. Franco confirms, "Vitamin D could be a good route to prevent mortality from cardiovascular disease and other causes of mortality."

Researchers estimated that more than two-thirds of European and American populations are lacking in this vitamin, even though getting enough involves only going for a walk outside and eating well. "The most important factors in obtaining vitamin D are going out and doing some exercise and following a healthy diet," explained Dr. Evropi Theodoratou of the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. 

Not sure if you’re getting enough of the sunshine nutrient? Here's how to get tested—and how some of Outside's staff stacks up.

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