The study – published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine – demonstrates that low vitamin D levels are common among patients admitted to intensive care units. The study found that patients who had a vitamin D deficiency lived an average of 8.9 days less than those who were sufficient in the vitamin – whilst levels of the sunshine vitamin were also found to correlate with levels of disease-fighting white blood cells.
As a result, the authors of the new study have now called for further research to assess whether the sunshine vitamin could help improve survival in critically ill hospital patients.
“The rationale behind the current investigation was to see if the higher morbidity and mortality rates attributed to vitamin D deficiency in the general population, and in the elderly population also affected extremely ill patients, with high mortality rates,” explained the researchers -who were led by Professor Howard Amital of Tel Aviv University, Israel.
“We observed longer survival times among vitamin D sufficient patients,” they added.
Amital said the results of his study suggest a need for further research into giving patients vitamin D, which could confirm that the vitamin will improve their survival outcomes.
“The rationale behind the current investigation was to see if the higher morbidity and mortality rates attributed to vitamin D deficiency in the general population, and in the elderly population also affected extremely ill patients, with high mortality rates,” explained the researchers.
To measure the impact of vitamin D levels on the survival of critically ill patients, the researchers designed an observational study. Over the course of six months, 130 patients over the age of 18 admitted to an intensive care unit of a Tel Aviv University-affiliated hospital and requiring mechanical ventilation were admitted to the study.
Patients who had taken vitamin D supplements prior to admittance were excluded from the study population.
Upon admittance, patients were divided into two groups based on vitamin D concentration: those who had 20 nanograms or more of the vitamin — the amount defined as the National Institute of Health as sufficient — and those who were vitamin D deficient based on the same criteria. In total, 107 patients suffered from vitamin D deficiency.
Survival curves indicate that while patients with sufficient vitamin D survived an average of 24.2 days, those who were deemed to be deficient in vitamin D survived an average of only 15.3 days — meaning patients with sufficient vitamin D levels survived an average of 8.9 days longer.
Patients with sufficient vitamin D levels were also found to have a higher white blood cell counts.
Amital said the findings ‘merit further investigation’, adding that the effects of vitamin D supplementation in critically ill patients should be further assessed.
“Our results provide important background information to perform larger scale, intervention-based trials of adjunctive vitamin D therapy,” said the researchers.
Source: QJM: An International Journal of Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcs014
“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor outcomes and increased mortality in severely ill patients”
Authors: Y. Arnson, I. Gringauz, D. Itzhaky, H. Amital