Impact of increased vitamin D intake on unnecessary mortality

An estimate of the global reduction in mortality rates through doubling vitamin D Levels
– Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Sep 2011

By WB Grant

[Note: This article is part of a special issue on research confirming the role of calcium and vitamin D “in the prevention of chronic disease other than bone health” – thus challenging the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report advocating calcium and vitamin D only for bone & musculoskeletal health, as well as relatively low daily intake and blood serum targets.]

The goal of this work is to estimate the reduction in mortality rates for six geopolitical regions of the world under the assumption that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels increase from 54 to 110 nmol/L. [The IOM report puts the target level at 50 nmol/L.]

Subjects/Methods: This study is based on interpretation of the journal literature relating to the effects of solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) and vitamin D in reducing the risk of disease and estimates of the serum 25(OH)D level – disease risk relations for cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and respiratory infections.

• The vitamin D-sensitive diseases that account for more than half of global mortality rates are CVD, cancer, respiratory infections, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus.

• Additional vitamin D-sensitive diseases and conditions that account for 2% to 3% of global mortality rates are Alzheimer’s disease, falls, meningitis, Parkinson’s disease, maternal sepsis, maternal hypertension (pre-eclampsia) and multiple sclerosis.

• Increasing serum 25(OH)D levels from 54 to 110 nmol/L would reduce the vitamin D-sensitive disease mortality rate by an estimated 20%.


• The reduction in all-cause mortality rates ranges from 7.6% for African females to 17.3% for European females.

• Reductions for males average 0.6% lower than for females.

• The estimated increase in life expectancy is 2 years for all six regions.


Increasing serum 25(OH)D levels is the most cost-effective way to reduce global mortality rates, as the cost of vitamin D is very low and there are few adverse effects from oral intake and/or frequent moderate UVB irradiance with sufficient body surface area exposed.

Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Special Issue: Calcium and Vitamin D for Chronic Disease) Sep 2011;(65) 1016-1026. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.68, by Grant WB. Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center, San Francisco, California, USA. [Email:]

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