Lack of vitamin D increases your risk of cardiovascular disease

- and supplements save lives

Lack of vitamin D increases your risk of cardiovascular diseaseVitamin D deficiencies are widespread and result in an increased risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and hypertension, according to a new study from University of South Australia. Because cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, scientists see a huge potential in vitamin D, a nutrient that may be able to save millions of lives.

Vitamin D is primarily known for its role in regulating the body’s calcium uptake which is important for bone health. However, nearly all cells in the body have receptors for vitamin D (VDR). Through these receptors, the nutrient regulates a variety of genes and a host of biochemical processes, some of which are important for our cardiovascular health.
In the new study from University of South Australia, the scientists studied data from 267,980 people and found that those with vitamin D deficiency had a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and elevated blood pressure compared with people who had normal vitamin D levels in their blood. Participants with the lowest vitamin D levels had twice the risk of cardiovascular diseases compared to those with sufficient levels of the nutrient in their blood.

Science: Vitamin D supplements should be included in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases

The leading cause of death worldwide is atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries – also known as ischemic heart disease. On a global scale, 17.9 million people die of this disease every year. In addition, cardiovascular diseases represent a major healthcare cost. An estimated one billion people worldwide have minor to moderate vitamin D deficiency and that affects their health in different ways. Twenty-three percent of Australians, 24 percent of Americans, and 37 percent of Canadians lack vitamin D. Similar figures can be expected in a country like Denmark.
Vitamin D deficiency is that common, the scientists behind the new study find it imperativeo inclu tde vitamin D supplementation in the strategy for preventing cardiovascular disease.
We get a small quantity of vitamin D from oily fish, eggs, and butter, but the amounts are very limited. Sunlight is our major source of the nutrient, provided the sun sits sufficiently high in the sky. At northern latitudes, however, the sun is not powerful enough during the winter period so we need to take a daily supplement in the cold months.
If you don’t get enough sun in the summer or if you have difficulty with synthesizing vitamin D, you should take a supplement all year round. This is the case with people who are veiled, have dark skin, nursing home residents and old people in general, diabetics, and people working nightshifts. Sunscreen with sun factor plus cholesterol-lowering statins also interfere with the body’s vitamin D synthesis.

Optimal blood levels of vitamin D can save lives

Vitamin D in the blood is measured as 25-hydrovitamin D. Levels are categorized as actual deficiency (below 30 nmol/L), insufficiency (30-50 nmol/L), and sufficiency (above 50 nmol/L). According to the researchers behind the new study, 4.4 percent of all cardiovascular deaths could be avoided if vitamin D-deficient people increased their blood levels to above 50 nmol/L. This corresponds to saving 800,000 lives annually worldwide. Millions of people could avoid early death by making sure they had enough vitamin D in their system. The new Australian study is published in European Heart Journal.

Leading scientists believe optimal blood levels of vitamin D should be somewhere in the range of 575-120 nmol/L

How does vitamin D protect against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease?

Atherosclerosis occurs when oxidized LDL cholesterol, fat, and calcium accumulate and form plaque on the inside of the blood vessels, reducing the blood passage and causing stiffening of the arteries. The disease gradually gets worse and many people don’t know that they have atherosclerosis until, all of a sudden, they get a blood clot.
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is an essential compound that is of vital importance to our cell membranes, steroid hormones, and vitamin D synthesis. Cholesterol only poses a threat if it oxidizes as a result of free radical attacks. This results in oxidative stress and causes the oxidized cholesterol to become embedded in the vessel wall. Chronic low-grade inflammation is a major source of oxidative stress and a common thread in most chronic diseases
According to a previously published meta-analysis from Ohio State University and an article published in BMJ Open, vitamin D has several important functions when it comes to preventing atherosclerosis. It has the following properties:

  • It reduces oxidative stress
  • It lowers the production of proinflammatory cytokines
  • It reduces dyslipidemia, which is a blanket term for all types of lipid imbalances in plasma (including cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • It reduces damage to the endothelial lining of the blood vessels that is of huge importance to the minute capillaries that carry blood to all tissues and organs

Vitamin D supplementation

On the market, you can find high-dosed vitamin D supplements with 20-100 micrograms of vitamin D. The individual need for vitamin D depends on a variety of factors such as sun exposure, age, skin type, weight, and chronic diseases. Vitamin D is a lipid-soluble nutrient. The easiest way for the body to absorb and utilize vitamin D is if we take the nutrient when it is bound to oil in small gelatin capsules.

References:

University of South Australia. The sunshine vitamin that `D`elivers on cardio health. ScienceDaily. December 2021

Zhou, Ang et al. Non-linear Mendelian randomization analyses support a role for vitamin D deficiency in cardiovascular diseases risk. European Heart Journal 2021

Staff reports. Study shows Vitamin D3 could help heal or prevent vascular damage. Ohio University Ohio News. 2018

Roma Pahwa; Ishwarial Jialal. Chronic Inflammation. NCBI April 2018

Aya Mousa et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on inflammation: protocol for a systematic review. BMJ Open 2016