A study published on August 30th in the online issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Journal has found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with a much higher risk of heart attack and an increased risk of dying from all causes combined. Dr. Peter Brondum-Jacobsen and his team looked at a sample of over ten thousand Danish men and women who had their vitamin D status determined by measuring the amount of its metabolite 25 hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] in their plasma. This group was then followed for an average of 29 years to determine if there was any correlation between their initial 25(OH)D levels and their subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease events and total mortality. During the following 29 years, a total of 3,100 people developed coronary artery disease (CAD), 1,625 suffered heart attacks, and a total of 6,747 people died from all causes combined. The results showed that low levels of plasma 25(OH)D levels were associated with an increasing risk of CAD, heart attacks, and earlier death. Comparing people with the lowest 5% of plasma 25(OH)D levels with individuals whose 25(OH)D levels were average or higher, the multivariable adjusted risk increased by 40% for CAD, by 64% for heart attack, and by 57% for earlier premature death. For fatal and nonfatal heart attacks combined, there were 81% more deaths in those with the lowest 25(OH)D levels compared to those in the top half of the 25(OH)D levels.
A separate meta-analyses of 35 other studies compared the risk of CAD and premature death with vitamin D status. This statistical analysis of these studies showed a 39% increased risk for CAD and an increase of 46% premature deaths for those in the lowest versus highest quartiles of 25(OH)D level. [ATVBAHA. 112.248039 Published online before print August 30, 2012, doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA. 112.248039].
Bottom Line: The results of this study and accompanying meta-analysis strongly suggest that people who are deficient in vitamin D are at a significantly greater risk of dying sooner. Much of that increased risk comes for coronary heart disease. The evidence demonstrating that very low levels of 25(OH)D in the plasma (<15nmol/L) increase the risk of dying, especially from cardiovascular disease (CVD). There also appears to be some increased risk of CVD with somewhat higher 25(OH)D levels, perhaps up to about 30nmol/L. For people whose vitamin D status appears adequate, there is no compelling data to suggest that taking vitamin D supplements to push plasma levels higher is beneficial.
By Dr. James J Kenney, PhD, FACN
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.