The research team analyzed a diverse sample of 13,000 men and women participating in an ongoing national health survey and compared the risk of death between those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D to those with higher levels.
Over an average follow-up period of about nine years, 1,806 participants died. The researchers found a 26% increased risk of death from any cause for the quartile of participants with the lowest vitamin D levels compared to those with the highest levels.
Analysis of the data did not find an association between vitamin D levels and death from specific causes such as heart disease or certain cancers.
"Our results make it much more clear that all men and women concerned about their overall health should more closely monitor their blood levels of vitamin D and make sure they have enough," says researcher Erin Michos, MD, in a news release. Michos is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute.
To increase one's vitamin D, a person can get direct exposure to sunlight, take supplements, and eat foods rich in vitamin D including milk, salmon, cod liver oil, mackerel, tuna or sardines canned in oil, egg yolks, and calf or beef liver.