Epidemiological evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased mortality, but it is unclear whether this is explained by reverse causation, and if there are specific causes of death for which vitamin D might be important. We conducted a systematic review of observational studies investigating associations between circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentration and all-cause or cause-specific mortality in generally healthy populations. Relevant studies were identified using PubMed and EMBASE searches. After screening 722 unique records and removing those that were ineligible, 84 articles were included in this review. The vast majority of studies reported inverse associations between 25(OH)D concentration and all-cause mortality. This association appeared to be non-linear, with progressively lower mortality with increasing 25(OH)D up to a point, beyond which there was no further decrease. There is moderate evidence that vitamin D status is inversely associated with cancer mortality and death due to respiratory diseases, while for cardiovascular mortality, there is weak evidence of an association in observational studies, which is not supported by the data from intervention or Mendelian randomization studies. The relationship between vitamin D status and other causes of death remains uncertain due to limited data. Larger long-term studies are required to clarify these associations.
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