Why Vitamin D3 Could Be The Most Important Heart Supplement Of All
In the ongoing debate about which supplements are useful and which aren’t, just a few continue to surface with evidence-based benefits. Among those, vitamin D3 is already near the top of the list – and a new study just added another reason to consider it, especially if you're at risk for or already have heart disease.
The study used a new method for tracking the impact of the vitamin on single endothelial cells in the cardiovascular system. These cells line the surface of blood vessels throughout the body and serve an essential regulatory function. They suffer extensive damage after heart attack and stroke, and from chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. The study found that treatment with vitamin D3 can repair damage to endothelial cells.
"There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged, and vitamin D3 can do it," said lead study author Dr. Tadeusz Malinski of Ohio University in a press statement. "This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system. We don't have to develop a new drug. We already have it."
The study also found that the vitamin reduces the level of oxidative stress throughout the cardiovascular system by stimulating nitric oxide (NO) concentrations, which increases blood flow and may help protect blood vessels from damage caused by conditions that lead to heart disease.
Vitamin D3 is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies process it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But getting enough of the vitamin that way is difficult, particularly for those living in parts of the world where months out of the year are spent indoors. Plus, the dangers of getting too much sun may outweigh the benefits. For those reasons, vitamin D3 supplements are among the few that make sense to consider adding to a daily regimen.
"Generally, vitamin D3 is associated with the bones. However, in recent years, in clinical settings people recognize that many patients who have a heart attack will have a deficiency of D3. It doesn't mean that the deficiency caused the heart attack, but it increased the risk of heart attack," Malinski said.
Some studies have estimated that a billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency, across all ethnicities and age groups. In the U.S., around 40% of adults are thought to be deficient in the vitamin, with African-Americans most at risk.
In addition to cardiovascular health, there’s some evidence to suggest that vitamin D deficiencies are linked to depression (particularly seasonal depression), especially among older adults.
Aside from taking a supplement, it’s also possible to increase vitamin D3 intake from eating more fatty fish (wild salmon and sardines are both good choices), oysters and egg yolks. Many brands of milk are fortified with vitamin D (although not necessarily D3).
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D from the National Institutes of Health is 600 IU for adults age 19-70, and 800 IU for adults over 70. Whether that level is high enough to counteract deficiency is a topic of debate. The"tolerable upper intake level" for adults 19 and older, according to the NIH, is 4000 IU, the equivalent of 100 mcg. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, as opposed to water soluble, it can build up in your system over time, so there is potential risk of overdoing it. As with all supplements, it's a good idea to check with your doctor first.