More vitamin D for fewer heart-related deaths: study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin d

People with low blood levels of vitamin D are more than twice as
likely to die from cardiovascular disease as those with high
levels, suggests a new study.

Higher blood levels of the vitamin, measured as 25- hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D), were associated with both lower overall death rates deaths from cardiovascular causes among 3,258 participants in the prospective cohort study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine​. "This prospective cohort study demonstrates for the first time, to our knowledge, that low 25- hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels are associated with increased risk in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality compared with patients with higher serum vitamin D levels,"​ wrote lead author Harald Dobnig from the Medical University of Graz, Austria. "Based on the findings of this study, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 20 ng/mL or higher may be advised for maintaining general health,"​ he added. Attaining this level would require an increase in the recommended daily intakes of the vitamin, echoing calls to raise levels. A recent study from Harvard reported that to increase 25(OH)D levels from 12 to 35.5 ng/mL a daily intake of about 3,000 IU of vitamin D would be needed - a level considerably higher than the current, but reportedly outdated, recommendation of 200 IU. Vitamin D refers to two biologically inactive precursors - D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and D2, also known as ergocalciferol. Both D3 and D2 precursors are hydroxylated in the liver and kidneys to form 25- hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), the non-active 'storage' form, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D), the biologically active form that is tightly controlled by the body. The study follows hot on the heels of a deluge of vitamin D studies reporting benefits against cancer, and specifically breast cancer, the health of arteries in the leg, and protection against heart attacks. Study details ​ The Austrian researchers recruited 3,258 patients with an average age of 62 scheduled for coronary angiography testing. Blood samples were taken in the morning of the test. During 7.7 years of follow-up, 737 of the study participants died, including 463 from cardiovascular causes. The lowest average 25(OH)D levels (7.6 ng/mL) were associated with a 108 per cent increase in the risk of 'all-cause mortality', compared to the highest average 25(OH)D levels (28.4 ng/mL). Furthermore, the lowest average 25(OH)D levels were associated with a 122 per cent increase in the risk of 'cardiovascular mortality', compared to the highest average 25(OH)D levels. Similar results were obtained when the researchers considered 1,25(OH)2D, they added. Inflammatory markers ​ Analysis of the blood samples also showed that low 25(OH)D levels were linked to higher levels of markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). "Apart from the proved effects that vitamin D has on bone metabolism and neuromuscular function, appropriate serum levels (that may also be higher than in the present investigation) are associated with a decrease in mortality,"​ wrote the researchers. "Although not proved, it seems possible that at least part of this effect may be due to lowering of a risk profile promoting atherosclerosis [narrowing of the arteries] and preventing cardiovascular end points,"​ they concluded. The study was funded by unrestricted grants from pharmaceutical giants Sanofi-Aventis, Roche, Dade Behring and AstraZeneca. Source: Archives of Internal Medicine​ Volume 168, Number 12, Pages 1340-1349. "Independent Association of Low Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D Levels With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality" ​Authors: H. Dobnig, S. Pilz, H. Scharnagl, W. Renner, U. Seelhorst, B. Wellnitz, J. Kinkeldei, B.O. Boehm, G. Weihrauch, W. Maerz

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