Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because the body can produce its own supply from sunlight. Long known for its role in bone health, over 200 genes respond to vitamin D making it a determinant factor in the development of many diseases. In fact, one study following 50,000 men for 10 years found those deficient in vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to men with sufficient vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels were also associated with higher risk of heart failure, sudden cardiac death, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
A new study published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine highlights the innovative research conducted at Ohio University on vitamin D and cardiac health. Researchers used nanosensors, that are 1,000 times smaller than human hair, to measure vitamin D’s impact on endothelial cells that line the heart and entire circulator system. They discovered vitamin D was a stimulator of nitric oxide which regulates blood flow and can prevent blood clots from forming. Vitamin D also reduced levels of oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system. Researchers found treatment with vitamin D reduced risk of heart attack and restored damaged endothelial cells caused by atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes. To date, no other system has been shown to do that.
42% of US adults are deficient in vitamin D, the highest rates are among African Americans, Hispanics, elderly people, overweight people, those with IBS or Crohn’s, and people who have limited sun exposure. People living in the Northern United States above Richmond, VA are more at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency in the winter due to the angle of the sun preventing UVB rays from being absorbed by the skin.
The recommendation for most people is to obtain sufficient sunlight or to consume 600 IU of vitamin D daily, 800 IU for people over 70 years of age. The author of the study suggests taking vitamin D in even higher amounts might benefit people seeking treatment for damaged cardiovascular cells. Since vitamin D is fat soluble and taking too much could lead to toxicity do not exceed 4,000 IU daily unless under doctor supervision.