Recently published studies report that vitamin D is important for cardiovascular health, with low levels linked to increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Markus Juonala, from the University of Turku (Finland), and colleagues analyzed data collected on 2,148 subjects enrolled in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, ages 3 to 18 years at the study’s start; subjects were re-examined at ages 30 to 45 years. Childhood levels of vitamin D were measured from stored serum. Carotid intima-thickness (IMT) – a marker of structural atherosclerosis, which correlates with cardiovascular risk factors, and predicts cardiovascular events – was measured on the posterior wall of the left carotid artery using ultrasound technology.
Data analysis revealed that the study subjects with 25-OH vitamin D levels (a marker of vitamin D) in the lowest quartile in childhood had subclinical atherosclerosis over 25 years later in adulthood. The study authors submit that: “Low 25-OH vitamin D levels in childhood were associated with increased carotid intima-thickness in adulthood.”
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The main source of vitamin D is its production in skin thanks to the sun. Women are more prone to low vitamin D than men – and due to differing weather conditions, concentrations vary in populations across the world.
Vitamin D deficiency is especially common among the elderly who often have less sun exposure, but it is unclear what effect the production of vitamin D has on death.
So researchers investigated the association of vitamin D with deaths from all-causes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. They paid particular attention to differences between countries, sexes and age groups.
Results show that there was no clear trend of vitamin D by age, but average levels were consistently lower among women than men. Average levels increased with education, were lowest in obese individuals and higher among subjects who exercised.
An association was found between those with the lowest levels of vitamin D and death from cardiovascular disease – in people with and without a history of the disease- and deaths from cancer in those with a history of the disease. No association was found between low vitamin D levels and deaths from cancer in those without a history of the disease.
The researchers say that death from all causes as a result of low vitamin D has “high public health relevance” and should be given high priority. They also ask whether levels of vitamin D in specific countries, different sexes and seasons “should be considered for defining vitamin D deficiency” due to its varying levels.
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Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal. “Vitamin D may play an important role in cancer prognosis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2014.
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A new meta-analysis concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplements prevent falls, and that ongoing trials to test this theory are unlikely to change this result. Falls can be devastating for older people, and strategies to reduce fall risk are urgently needed as the global population ages. The results of trials that have investigated the ability of vitamin D to prevent falls – and those of previous meta-analyses – have been mixed. It is unclear how vitamin D supplements might prevent falls but, until now, there has been enough positive evidence to support its recommendation by some health organizations.
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Source: The Lancet. “Vitamin D supplements have little effect on risk of falls in older people.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2014.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements after menopause can improve women’s cholesterol profiles. And much of that effect is tied to raising vitamin D levels, finds a new study from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) just published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
It has been debated if calcium or vitamin D can indeed improve cholesterol levels. And studies of women taking the combination could not separate the effects of calcium from those of vitamin D on cholesterol. But this study, led by NAMS Board of Trustees member Peter F. Schnatz, DO, NCMP, is helping to settle those questions because it looked both at how a calcium and vitamin D supplement changed cholesterol levels and how it affected blood levels of vitamin D in postmenopausal women.
Whether these positive effects of supplemental calcium and vitamin D on cholesterol will translate into benefits such as lower rates of cardiovascular disease for women after menopause remains to be seen, but these results, said the authors, are a good reminder that women at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency should consider taking calcium and vitamin D.
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Source: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Calcium, vitamin D improve cholesterol in postmenopausal women.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2014.