According to a sizable new study published this week in The BMJ, high-dose supplemental vitamin D given once a month may reduce the risk of heart attack or other serious cardiac events in persons 60 and older. Researchers found that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of heart attack and the requirement for coronary revascularization (procedures that restore blood flow to parts of your heart that aren’t getting enough blood), even though the level of risk reduction was modest.
Is there any real heart protection provided by supplemental vitamin D ?
Research on the advantages of vitamin D for the heart has so far been inconsistent. The authors of the study noted that several earlier studies had shown that taking supplements did not prevent heart problems. A 2019 JAMA Cardiology review included 21 clinical trials and more than 83,000 individuals came to the conclusion that vitamin D supplements do not lower the chance of experiencing or passing away from a heart attack or stroke.
According to Rachel Neale, PhD, deputy coordinator of the population health department at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland, Australia, and her study coauthors, “These [latest] findings suggest that conclusions that supplemental vitamin D does not alter the risk of cardiovascular disease are premature.”
“These findings could prompt further evaluation of the role of supplemental vitamin D , particularly in people taking drugs for the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease,” they noted.
Large Trial Indicates Some Vitamin D Heart Benefits
More than 21,000 individuals between the ages of 60 and 84 who were split into two groups and given either a placebo or a monthly vitamin D tablet containing 60,000 IU (international units) each participated in the analysis.
The study excluded people who were already taking more than 500 IU of vitamin D daily, as well as those who had a history of excessive calcium levels, hyperparathyroidism, kidney stones, osteomalacia (a disease marked by the creation of microscopic collections of inflammatory cells), or sarcoidosis (a disease characterised by the proliferation of inflammatory cell clusters). Over 80% of patients said they took at least 80% of the research tablets, and the course of treatment lasted an average of five years.
A significant heart problem occurred in 1,336 trial participants (6.6% in the vitamin D group vs. 6.6% in the placebo group). The rate of major cardiovascular events was 9% lower for those taking supplemental vitamin D compared to those receiving a placebo (corresponding to 5.8 fewer occurrences per 1,000 participants), despite the fact that the difference between the two groups was rather marginal.
In the supplemental vitamin D group, the risk of coronary revascularization was 11% lower and the rate of heart attacks was 19% lower. However, there was no distinction between the two groups with regard to stroke. According to Anastassios G. Pittas, MD, chief of the endocrinology division at Tufts Medical Centre in Boston, “the effect of the dose given to this population was small overall.” “But then, if you consider the low costs [20 cents per tablet or less] and overall safety, and you apply this at the large public health level, it may have important implications.”