Deficiency in D major: Did vitamin deficiency lead to Mozart’s untimely death?

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

All work and no play (outside), made Wolfgang a sick boy
All work and no play (outside), made Wolfgang a sick boy
A lack of exposure to sun and the resulting deficiency in vitamin D may have been behind the early demise of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, suggests a new analysis.

Mozart passed away at the tender age of 35 having suffered from a list of infectious diseases throughout his lifetime, including pneumonia and sepsis, heart disease, and kidney disease, all of which have a link to vitamin D deficiency, according to a letter to the journal Medical Problems of Performing Artists​.

William Grant, PhD, from the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) in San Francisco and Stefan Pilz, MD, from the Medical University of Graz in Austria report that weak sunlight for six months of the year in Salzburg and Vienna would have made it impossible for a person to make vitamin D from sun exposure.

Add to this that Mozart did the majority of his composing at night – and therefore slept during the day – and you have a new hypothesis to explain Mozart’s death.

“While understanding the causes of Mozart’s death cannot bring him back,”​ wrote Grant and Pilz, “it does have an important lesson for those living at higher latitudes in Europe and elsewhere regarding the importance of vitamin D.

“Emerging science indicates that the serum 25(OH)D level [the storage form of vitamin D in the body] for optimal health is 75 to 100 nmol/L or slightly higher. Mainly attributable to reduced sunlight-induced vitamin D synthesis in the skin, the population mean value for those living at mid-to-high latitudes is between 40 and 65 nmol/L.

“To increase serum 25(OH)D levels to over 100 nmol/L could take 2500 to 5000 IU of vitamin D per day.”

Source: Medical Problems of Performing Artists
June 2011, Volume 26, Number 2, Page 117
“Vitamin D deficiency contributed to Mozart's death”
Authors: W.B. Grant, S. Pilz

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