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People in the study, who had genetically lower levels of vitamin D, had 30 percent increased risk of death and 40 percent increased risk of dying from cancer than the others.Sten Dueland/Flickr

A deficiency of vitamin D can shorten your life span, according to a new study.

People in the study, who had genetically lower levels of vitamin D, had a 30% increased risk of death and 40% increased risk of dying from cancer than the others.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps keep bones and teeth healthy. Additionally, it also plays a major role in the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body.

For the study, a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark analysed genes associated with permanent low levels of vitamin D and mortality in nearly 96,000 people.

Blood samples from the participants were used to determine vitamin D levels and genetic defects.

Results showed a direct link between genetically low levels of vitamin D and increased risk of mortality.

"Our study shows that low vitamin D levels do result in higher mortality rates, but the best way of increasing vitamin D levels in the population remains unclear," Professor Børge Nordestgaard, Chief Physician at Copenhagen University Hospital, said in a news release.

"We still need to establish the amount of vitamin D to be added, as well as how and when it is most effective: Should we get vitamin D from the sun, through our diet or as vitamin supplements? And should it be added in the foetal stage via the mother, during childhood or when we have reached adulthood?"

The findings of the study have been reported in the British Medical Journal.

Vitamin D can be acquired either through exposure to sunlight or through regular consumption of certain foods, including oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, shiitake and button mushrooms.

A severe vitamin D deficiency has been known to increase the risk of bone-softening diseases in children (rickets) and adults (osteomalacia).

Previous studies have highlighted adverse health outcomes associated with vitamin D deficiency.

In June, a team of American researchers reported that vitamin D level in the blood less than 10 nanograms/millilitre increased the risk of dying within nine years.

In another study, a team of doctors from Yashoda Hospitals and Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad provided solid evidence to prove that vitamin D deficiency had a great role in brain strokes.

Also, maintaining an adequate level of vitamin D has been shown promising in fighting a nervous system disease known as multiple sclerosis (MS); improving the chances of survival in bowel cancer; fighting childhood wheezing; and type 1 diabetes in children.