Vitamin D 'heals damaged hearts'
By James Gallagher
Health editor, BBC News website
Vitamin D supplements may help people with diseased
hearts, a study suggests.
A trial on 163 heart failure patients found supplements
of the vitamin, which is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight,
improved their hearts' ability to pump blood around the body.
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals team, who presented
at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, described
the results as "stunning".
The British Heart Foundation called for longer
trials to assess the pills.
Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and teeth
and may have important health benefits throughout the body but
many people are deficient.
No safe way to suntan - warning
The average age of people in the study was 70
and like many people that age they had low levels of vitamin D
even in summer.
"They do spend less time outside, but the
skin's ability to manufacture vitamin D also gets less effective
[with age] and we don't really understand why that is," said
consultant cardiologist Dr Klaus Witte.
Patients were given either a 100 microgram vitamin
D tablet or a sugar pill placebo each day for a year.
And researchers measured the impact on heart
failure - a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump
The key measure was the ejection fraction, the
amount of blood pumped out of the chambers of the heart with each
In a healthy adult the figure is between 60%
and 70%, but only a quarter of the blood in the heart was being
successfully pumped out in the heart failure patients.
But in those taking the vitamin pills, the ejection
fraction increased from 26% to 34%.
Dr Witte told the BBC News website: "It's
quite a big deal, that's as big as you'd expect from other more
expensive treatments that we use, it's a stunning effect.
"It's as cheap as chips, has no side effects
and a stunning improvement on people already on optimal medical
therapy, it is the first time anyone has shown something like
this in the last 15 years."
The study also showed the patients hearts became
smaller - a suggestion they are becoming more powerful and efficient.
In the UK, people over 65 are advised to take
10 microgram supplements of the vitamin.
However, Dr Witte does not think high-dose vitamin
D should be routine prescribed just yet.
He told the BBC: "We're a little bit off
that yet, not because I don't believe it, but data have shown
improvements in heart function, they may show improvements in
symptoms and we now need a large study."
It is also not clear exactly how vitamin D is
improving heart function, but it is thought every cell in the
body responds to the vitamin.
Most vitamin D comes from sunlight, although
it is also found in oily fish, eggs and is added to some foods
such as breakfast cereals.
Prof Peter Weissberg, from the British Heart
Foundation, cautioned that the patients seemed no better at exercise.
And added: "A much bigger study over a longer
period of time is now needed to determine whether these changes
in cardiac function can translate into fewer symptoms and longer
lives for heart failure patients."
The Answer is Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is a precursor hormone — the
building block of a powerful steroid hormone in your body called
calcitriol. As a hormone, calcitriol controls phosphorus, calcium,
and bone metabolism and neuromuscular function in the body. For
centuries Vitamin D was considered to be only essential to maintaining
bone health, but recently more and more studies are linking Vitamin
D to overall body wellness.
These days supplementation has become very important
as the average person is unable to absorb their daily dose of
vitamin through 15-20 minutes unprotected sun exposure.
The average healthy body can naturally synthesize
about 10,000–15,000 IU of vitamin D3 in the skin within
minutes of sun exposure, without ill effect. Sunscreen lotions
above SPF 15 and glass windows block the essential UVB rays the
body needs to synthesize this crucial vitamin. In these circumstances,
taking a Vitamin D supplement every day is essential to maintaining
good health and protecting the body from various potential illnesses.
The Sunlight Nutrient
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the human
body when exposed to direct sunlight. Season, geographic latitude,
time of day, cloud cover, smog, and sunscreen affect UV ray exposure
and vitamin D synthesis in the skin, and it is important for individuals
with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D
in their diet.
Vitamin D supplements could heal damaged hearts
Vitamin D supplements could heal damaged hearts,
according to a recent study. The trial involving 163 heart failure
patients found that supplements containing Vitamin D improved
the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. The results
have been considered as ‘stunning’ by the Leeds Teaching
Vitamin D is made in the skin via sunlight and
is considered vital for teeth and bone health along with various
other biological processes. The average age of those involved
in the study was 70 and as with many people that age, they had
low levels of Vitamin D, even during the summer months. It’s
believed that people over 70 spend less time outdoors and that
with age, the body’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D also
becomes less effective.
During the study, participants were given a 100
microgram Vitamin D tablet or a sugar placebo pill to take every
day during the year. Their impact on heart failure was measured
– this is a condition where the heart becomes too weak to
pump the blood properly around the body. The ejection fraction
was the key measure, or the amount of blood that was pumped out
of the heart’s chambers with each beat. The figure is usually
60-70% in a healthy adult, but only 1/4 of the blood can be pumped
out in heart failure patients.
When the vitamin pills were taken however, the
ejection fraction was shown to increase from 26% to 34%. The study
also indicated that the patients’ hearts became smaller,
suggesting they were more powerful and efficient.
While doctors aren’t clear that the vitamin
should be routinely prescribed due to not being completely certain
as to how it improves heart function, they acknowledge that every
cell in the body responds to Vitamin D. The study data shows that
patients who took Vitamin D saw improvements in their symptoms,
so a larger study is needed.
This exciting development brings good news for
anyone suffering from a heart problem as it indicates that taking
Vitamin D could be a highly effective, convenient and relatively
cheap solution to dealing with heart problems, as opposed to prescription
medications and other intrusive means such as surgery.