Cochrane LibraryVitamin D

Might vitamin D prevent death?

In this Cochrane review, researchers at the University of Nis, in Serbia, assessed the beneficial and harmful effects of vitamin D for prevention of mortality in adults.

First, the details.

  • 50 studies with 94,148 participants provided data for the mortality analyses.
  • Studies that compared vitamin D at any dose, duration, and route of administration vs placebo or no treatment were included in the review.
  • Vitamin D could have been administered in the following formulations:
    • Vitamin D (vitamin D(3) (cholecalciferol)
    • Vitamin D(2) (ergocalciferol))
    • 1alpha-hydroxyvitamin D (alfacalcidol; an active metabolite of Vitamin D)
    • 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol; Rocaltrol).
  • Most studies included elderly women (older than 70 years).
  • Vitamin D was administered for about 2 years.

And, the results.

  • Overall, vitamin D was associated with decreased mortality.
  • Only vitamin D(3) decreased mortality significantly.
    • 161 individuals would have to be treated to prevent 1 additional death.
  • Vitamin D(3) combined with calcium increased the risk of nephrolithiasis (kidney stones).
  • Alfacalcidol and calcitriol increased the risk of high levels of calcium in the blood.
  • Data on health-related quality of life and health economics were inconclusive.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Vitamin D in the form of vitamin D(3) seems to decrease mortality in predominantly elderly women who are mainly in institutions and dependent care.”

But be careful, vitamin D(3) combined with calcium significantly increases the risk of kidney stones. And, alfacalcidol and calcitriol significantly increased blood levels of calcium. Their use should be monitored by a healthcare professional.

11/16/11 21:40 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.