People who are vitamin D deficient have a significantly increased risk of death than those with a healthy amount, new research suggests.
Researchers from Austria said deficiency of the vitamin was “strongly linked” to increased mortality – especially in younger and middle-aged people.
The strongest associations were with causes of death other than cardiovascular disease and cancer, a finding described as “surprising”.
The researchers, from the Medical University of Vienna, analysed the records of 78,581 patients who had their vitamin D levels measured at the General Hospital of Vienna between 1991 and 2011.
They then matched these with the Austrian national death register, with 11,877 deaths within 20 years of follow up.
They found that those with low levels of vitamin D had a two to three times increased risk of death, with the largest effect seen in those aged 45-60.
There was no significant link in patients older than 75, the study found.
Patients with low levels were more than four times more likely to die from diabetes than people who were not deficient.
And they were twice as likely to die from infectious diseases.
The researchers said: “Our survival data from a large cohort, covering all age groups, from a population with minimal vitamin D supplementation at old age, confirm a strong association of vitamin D deficiency (under 50 nmol/L) with increased mortality.
“This association is most pronounced in the younger and middle-aged groups and for causes of deaths other than cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially diabetes.”
They added: “Our findings strengthen the rationale for widespread vitamin D supplementation to prevent premature mortality, emphasise the need for it early in life and mitigate concerns about a possible negative effect at higher levels.”