Could Vitamin D Influence How Long Cats Live?
In the past, Vitamin D has gotten quite a reputation for being important for human health. What is less known is that it has also been linked to bone health. So far, researchers have found that not having enough Vitamin D is related to diseases such as hypertension, cancer, and diabetes, as well as to mortality. For humans, it seems that we just can’t get by without it.
Still, it’s difficult to interpret these studies because there are many factors that influence a person’s Vitamin D status: Sex, age, ethnicity, diet, season, and exposure to sunlight, for example, all affect Vitamin D concentration. This means that, unfortunately, scientists can’t say for sure whether low Vitamin D levels alone are to blame for what ails us.
Still, researchers seem to have found a way around this problem: They conducted a study on cats. This might sound strange, but they had their reasons: Unlike humans, felines can’t produce Vitamin D with their skin. Also, most cats have a similar dietary intake of Vitamin D because commercial cat foods are often supplemented. In this way, two confounding factors (exposure to sunlight and diet) were already controlled.
The research team recruited ninety-nine ill, already-hospitalized cats. They then measured the Vitamin D concentration in their blood to see if it was related to mortality.
On their second point of testing after 30 days, 19 of the cats had died, leaving 80 still alive. And just like the scientists expected, they found that cats who had died within 30 days of first being tested had had significantly lower levels of Vitamin D in their blood than those who survived. The cats with low Vitamin D concentration were less likely to survive the 30 day interval.
These results support past studies with human participants. The researchers believe that a possible reason for this is that Vitamin D can, for instance, regulate immune responses and inflammation.
But of course, as in every correlational study, there’s a caveat: Correlation doesn’t equal causation, which means that we can’t yet conclude that a lack of Vitamin D directly leads to mortality in cats. More research needs to be done. For companion animal advocates, the study shows that Vitamin D may be something to monitor in both healthy and ailing cats, and that any noticeable drop in levels of the vitamin may need to be addressed as soon as possible.