Taking vitamin D supplements regularly for at least three years may lengthen the lives of people with cancer, a recent study suggests.
In this study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) reviewed 10 randomized controlled trials that compared vitamin D supplementation with placebos. These trials involved over 79,000 people with cancer. The patients had an average age of 68, and the trials reported cancer incidence and mortality. The MSU researchers focused on whether vitamin D supplementation played a role in lowering cancer risk and death.
The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation had a significant effect on reducing cancer-related deaths once cancer was diagnosed compared to trial patients who were given placebos. However, the researchers tempered this finding with the fact that they did not see evidence to indicate that vitamin D supplementation had a role in preventing cancer incidence.
The researchers combed through their database of nearly 80,000 cancer patients and found that those who had been taking vitamin D supplements for at least three years had a 13 percent reduced risk of mortality.
In a statement, lead author Dr. Tarek Haykal said that “the difference in the mortality rate between the vitamin D and placebo groups was statistically significant enough that it showed just how important it might be among the cancer population.”
Dr. Joya Chandra of the University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center stated that while this study was interesting, more research ultimately needs to be done. Specifically, she believes that more in-depth analyses must be done on whether vitamin D supplementation affects cancer-related mortality for all kinds of cancer and if this positive effect transfers to people of all age ranges and people of all ethnicities. (Related: Vitamin D Cuts Cancer and Heart Disease Risk by Up to Fifty Percent.)
Reasons to take vitamin D supplements regularly
Vitamin D isn’t just beneficial for people with cancer. It is a well-known antioxidant, and many studies have highlighted and established the beneficial properties of this “sunshine vitamin.”
For starters, a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that supplementing with high doses of vitamin D had a positive effect on people with depressive symptoms.
Another study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that, during a 15-week weight reducing program, study participants who supplemented their weight management plan with vitamin D and calcium lost more weight than those who took placebos. The researchers suggested that vitamin D and calcium had an effect on suppressing appetite.
Furthermore, multiple studies have found that vitamin D supplementation could reduce a person’s chances of developing several diseases such as the flu, multiple sclerosis and heart disease.
While the researchers and experts alike agree that deeper analyses are needed to confirm the findings, particularly in understanding just how much vitamin D you need to take, what levels are needed for its longevity properties to take effect, and how much vitamin D can extend your lifespan, supplementing with vitamin D is ultimately one of the ways to improve overall health.
With cancer being the second leading cause of death in the United States, it may be time to consider vitamin D as a way of preventing cancer mortality. To increase your vitamin D intake, Dr. Wasif M. Saif of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute suggests getting sensible sun exposure, eating foods rich in vitamin D, and taking vitamin D supplements.