Vitamin D lowers risk of cancer death – study

Supplementing with vitamin D may lower the risk of cancer death by 16%, according to new research.

Scientists from China and the US, analysing data from 52 studies covering almost 76 000 participants, found that “vitamin D supplementation reduced risk of cancer death by 16%.”

They proposed additional studies on vitamin D’s role in helping reduce death from other chronic diseases, while the US Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), said the findings were “promising” and encouraged further research.

“Cancer is complex and multifactorial. Taking a long-term, comprehensive approach in consultation with a healthcare practitioner is what contributes the most to disease prevention. Optimal nutrition is only one component of many,” said the CRN’s Andrea Wong. 

“Everyone…has a nutritional need for vitamin D. It is an essential nutrient, critical to overall health, and yet most people do not get enough…”

The findings come as new research shows that cancer is fast surpassing cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among middle-aged patients in several countries.

And they follow an earlier US study of data from over 79 000 patients which found that vitamin D supplementation could help cancer patients live longer. A Japanese study of over 4 000 patients found that higher levels of vitamin D may be linked to a lower risk of developing cancer.

The chairperson of the Health Products Association of Southern Africa (HPA), Maria Ascencao, said the findings further highlighted the benefits of vitamin D beyond contributing only to healthy bones.

She said research showed that at least 17% of the global population is deficient, although this figure is believed to be higher in SA due to low sun exposure in winter.

Deficiency may be an underlying cause of a wide range of infections and illnesses, and may be reversed by supplementation. Other studies have also shown that supplementation may:

  • help cut flu risk by up to 42%
  • prevent winter anaemia while boosting white blood cell count
  • reduce risk of HIV infection and slow down HIV progression in infected individuals and;
  • help relieve the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

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