We’ve been hearing all of the good news about vitamin D. From increasing bone density to fighting cancer - it’s hard to imagine this little appreciated, inexpensive vitamin was under the mainstream radar for so long.
Now add another star to vitamin D’s chart.
Cardiovascular risk appears to increase with a vitamin D deficiency, new research finds. Sorting through the studies on vitamin D is Dr. James H. O’Keefe, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).
O’Keefe says of a vitamin D deficiency, “It is associated with major risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stiffening of the left ventricle of the heart and blood vessels. Inflammation is really important for heart disease, and people with vitamin D deficiency have increased inflammation.”
That translates to stroke and congestive heart failure. Low levels of vitamin D can also alter hormone levels and immune function, which can increase the risk of diabetes.
It’s estimated that half of adults and one-third of children may be deficient in the vitamin. A study out of Children’s Hospital in Boston earlier this year, found that 40 percent of infants and toddlers are not getting enough vitamin D.
A low level is defined as below 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood. People in that category were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem.
The man who identified vitamin D receptors in heart cells, Robert Simpson at the University of Michigan, tells US News, "It is a precursor to a hormone, and this prehormone is responsible for making a very important regulator of cardiovascular processes," he said.
Routine screening for levels of circulating vitamin D is recommended.
Getting The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D deficiency likely results from staying out of the sun.
Sunshine exposure allows the body to create its own vitamin D. Ten minutes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on skin without sunscreen should be adequate. Darker skin people need slightly more exposure. Beyond 15 or 30 minutes, sunscreen should be added.
But supplementation is recommended since few foods, other than salmon, cod liver oil, and deepwater fish have adequate amounts. Vitamin D is added to supplement milk and some cereals, but not enough to be sufficient.
A minimum of 200 IU (International Units) a day is recommended, while others look at over 1,000 IU daily.
The authors recommend the following for restoring vitamin D levels in deficient patients:
- Initial treatment with 50,000 IU of vitamin D2 or D3, once weekly for 8-12 weeks
- Maintenance therapy could include the same dosage every two weeks
- 1,000 to 2,000 vitamin D3 daily
- Sunlight exposure for 10 minutes for Caucasians, longer for dark skin
Can you overdose on vitamin D?
Researchers believe it tends to be safe, but in some rare cases, taking in excess of 20,000 IU a day, toxicity can include high calcium levels and kidney stones. #