Vitamin D plays a well-known role in calcium absorption and bone health. In addition, vitamin D supports immune function, regulates cell growth and helps reduce inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is a growing health concern. A few foods contain vitamin D naturally, and others are fortified with it. You also get vitamin D from sunlight exposure. Researchers show interest in other ways that vitamin D may promote health and are exploring its potential role in cholesterol regulation and heart health.
Cholesterol Health is Crucial
Hypercholesterolemia is the medical name for high cholesterol, according to the Genetics Home Reference website. It occurs when the cholesterol levels in your blood are elevated. Cholesterol is found in animal foods, with major sources being egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Your risk of developing coronary artery disease, or CAD, is increased if you have high cholesterol. CAD occurs when cholesterol plaque accumulates on the walls of arteries that supply blood to your heart. This greatly increases your risk of suffering a heart attack.
Researchers Establish a Link
High cholesterol is a factor that places you at risk of developing heart disease. Researchers from Intermountain Medical Center in Utah analyzed patient records to determine the relationship between vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The team examined more than 40,000 files, and found that low vitamin D significantly increases the risk for high cholesterol. The study is published in the October 2010 issue of "The American Journal of Cardiology."
Short-Term Supplementation Falls Short
Rockefeller University researchers explored the possibility that correcting low vitamin D levels may exert a favorable effect on cholesterol levels. Participants in the study took large doses of vitamin D for eight weeks to correct deficiency. Despite this, researchers found that supplementation failed to correct cholesterol levels. The team noted that in some people, vitamin D supplementation actually worsened their cholesterol profile. The study is published in the October 2012 issue of the journal, "Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology."
More Research Needed
More research is needed to understand the role of vitamin D in heart health. Keep in mind that the Rockefeller University study was just eight weeks in duration and included only 151 participants. Curiously, a study published in the January 2007 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," showed positive results when overweight, dieting women supplemented vitamin D plus Calcium. Laval University, Canada researchers found that 15-week supplementation significantly decreased total cholesterol and the bad LDL cholesterol, independent of weight loss.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
- The American Journal of Cardiology: Relation of Vitamin D Deficiency to Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Disease Status, and Incident Events in a General Healthcare Population
- Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: The Short-term Effects of Vitamin D Repletion on Cholesterol: A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Supplementation with Calcium + Vitamin D Enhances the Beneficial Effect of Weight Loss on Plasma Lipid and Lipoprotein Concentrations
- Genetics Home Reference: Hypercholesterolemia