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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 blood properly.

The key measure was the ejection fraction, the amount of blood pumped out of the chambers of the heart with each beat.

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 Hospitals Team.

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.

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