Did Vitamin D Deficiency Contribute to Mozart’s and Mahler’s Deaths?
Source Newsroom: Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center
Newswise — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), suffered from many infectious illnesses including catarrh, fever, sore throat, and bad colds from 1762 to 1791, the year of his death at 35 years of age. Most of these illnesses occurred between mid-October and May. At the latitude of Salzburg and Vienna, 48º N, it is impossible to make vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance for about six months of the year. Mozart died on December 5, 1791, two-to-three months into the 6-month vitamin D winter at that latitude.
Vitamin D may reduce the risk of many acute respiratory infectious diseases including viral infections such as influenza (this has already been proven in two placebo controlled trials) and bacterial infections such as pneumonia.
In the eighteenth century, the health benefits of ultraviolet-B light from sunlight and vitamin D was unknown, and people may have thought that the reason infectious diseases were more common in winter was that it was cold.
Another famous musician and composer, Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was raised in Iglau / Igława / Jihlava, (Czech Republic) (49 deg. N). In December 2010 he developed a sore throat while working in New York with the Philharmonic orchestra. He was subsequently diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis and died on May 18, 1911 at age 41. Vitamin D fights such blood-born bacterial infections.
A modern-day musician who died of a vitamin D-deficiency disease was Jacqueline Mary du Pré (26 January 1945 – 19 October 1987), a British cellist, acknowledged as one of the greatest players of the instrument. Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to cease performing at the age 28, and led to her premature death at age 42.
There is a growing body of research from ecological (geographic), observational, and randomized controlled trial studies which suggest that vitamin D may reduce the risk of numerous diseases including many types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, neurological and neuromuscular diseases, in addition to bone diseases including rickets and osteoporosis.
Vitamin D deficiency is very likely an important issue for modern musicians as well. Musicians have to spend many hours indoors practicing and performing and are thus prone to low sunlight exposure, which leads to reduced vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
The scientific evidence indicates that optimal protection against disease from vitamin D occurs for 25(OH)D blood levels above 30 to 40 ng/ml (75 to 100 nmol/L). To reach this level takes 10-20 minutes of midday spring-to-fall sun with 20-30% of the body exposed daily, or an oral intake of 1000-4000 IU/day vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
The paper on Mozart’s death related to vitamin D deficiency has open access and can be found at:
Grant WB, Pilz S. Vitamin D deficiency contributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s death. Med Probl Perform Art. June 2011;26(2):117.
Medical Problems of Performing Artists is the first clinical medical journal devoted to the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of medical and psychological disorders related to the performing arts. Original peer-reviewed research papers cover topics including neurologic disorders, musculoskeletal conditions, voice and hearing disorders, anxieties, stress, substance abuse, disorders of aging, and other health issues related to actors, dancers, singers, musicians, and other performers.