Vitamin D does NOT prevent heart disease: Patients who take supplements are at no less risk of heart attack, stroke and death than those on placebos, study finds
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to poor bone, heart and metabolic health
- But doctors have not agreed upon an optimal level for anything but bone health
- The vitamin D market is estimated to be worth billions of dollars by 2025
- But a new University of Michigan study found that among 8,000 patients, those on vitamin D supplements don’t prevent heart problems any better than placebo
Taking vitamin D supplements does not prevent heart attack, stroke, heart disease or death from cardiovascular problems, a new study suggests.
Through the years, scientists have linked vitamin D deficiency to a broad spectrum of health problems, including everything from diabetes to brittle bones, heart problems, depression and more.
And on the heels of this research, vitamin D supplement sales have soared.
But a new University of Michigan study of 8,000 people calls the notion that the supplements will protect your heart into question, finding that those who took the capsules were no less at-risk than people taking a placebo.
Vitamin D is one of the most popular supplements in the US, but a new study found it does no more to prevent heart attacks than placebos do
Research has suggested that as many as 40 percent of men and 50 percent of women in the US have suboptimal vitamin D levels, and a quarter of us have severe deficiencies.
And it’s spurred a widespread scramble to boost levels of the sunshine vitamin – and the growth of a market estimated to be worth anywhere from $1.7 to $3.3 billion by 2025 (predictions vary wildly).
A bottle of vitamin D supplement capsules costs anywhere from $5 and $25, and many Americans take them religiously.
We know pretty certainly what the minimum level of vitamin D in the blood necessary to good bone health is (above 12 ng/mL), but the the rest isn’t so settled, an editorial accompanying the new study says.
Despite the many studies finding a link between low vitamin D levels and poor heart health, there isn’t so much evidence that vitamin D deficiency causes heart problems, nor that getting enough of the nutrient prevents them.
Researchers at Michigan decided to put it by the test by analyzing 21 previous vitamin D clinical trials.
Collectively, the trials included 83,291 patients. About half of them were given vitamin D supplements, and about half got placebo pills.
But when it came to their risks of heart problems, it really didn’t matter.
About as many people in the vitamin D groups suffered heart attacks, stroke, and died of heart-related causes as did people in the placebo group.
The study itself doesn’t attempt to explain what’s at play, but Dr Arshed Quyumi and Dr Ibhar Al Mheid offer some theories in their accompanying editorial.
They point out that the primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, which most people get simply by being, walking and exercising outside.
While vitamin D is important to bone health, there’s a much clearer, causal link between an active lifestyle and healthy heart function.
So low vitamin D levels may just indicate ‘a lack of physical activity and thus simply a be a marker of overall poor health,’ Dr Ibhar and Dr Mheid point out.
The new study’s finding ‘supports efforts aimed at curbing wasteful spending on vitamin D testing and treatment in populations not at risk for deficiency and/or for the purpose o preventing [heart disease] mortality,’ they write.
That doesn’t mean that we should give up vitamin D altogether, however.
‘Vitamin D therapy in patients with chronic kidney disease and hyperparathyroidism is definitely indicated, and such therapy has established cardiovascular benefits, including blood pressure reduction, reduced electrolyte derangements, and overall reduced cardiovascular mortality rates in patients on hemodialysis,’ they wrote.
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