Vitamin D is called the “Sunshine Vitamin” because it is naturally made in our skin when we are exposed to ultraviolet B rays found in sunlight. Heart failure patients are often deficient in this vitamin even during the summer months. A new five-year study investigated the potential benefits heart patients experienced when they took vitamin supplements. The results were surprising.
Vitamin D Supplementation Improved Heart Function in a 5-Year Study
Dr. Klaus K. Witte, a senior lecturer in Cardiology at the University of Leeds in the UK, reported that researchers there saw improvement in heart muscle function when a daily dose of vitamin D3 was given to patients with heart muscle weakness. While patients who took placebos saw no changes, those who received vitamin D3 supplements experienced up to a 34-percent improvement in heart pumping function.
Vitamin D Deficiency Common in Older Adults
Vitamin D deficiency is common in older adults. They make less vitamin D3 in their skin when compared to younger people when exposed to the sun. In addition, recommendations from dermatologists to use sunblock also reduces vitamin D production in the skin. Few foods naturally contain it, so people who are deficient may need supplements. These supplements usually come in two forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol which is what physicians usually prescribe) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol which you can obtain over-the-counter).
Vitamin D3 is the Active Form
While vitamin D3 is more reliable and potent than vitamin D2 because it is the form that's made in the skin, both types must undergo conversion inside the body before vitamin D becomes active.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
One of the best known benefits of vitamin D is its ability to improve bone and musculoskeletal health. Pediatricians for many years have known about the relationship of vitamin D and the bone disease Rickets. Deficiency of vitamin D causes osteopenia (weak bones) and intensifies osteoporosis (decreased bone density causing brittle bones). Both of these increase the risk of falls and fractures. Insufficient vitamin D has also been linked to dementia and chronic heart failure.
Chronic Heart Failure Led to “Vindicate” Study
To learn whether vitamin D supplements might benefit heart failure patients, the University of Leeds researchers designed the Vitamin D Treating Patients with Chronic Heart Failure (VINDICATE) study. They focused on patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction, where the heart does a poor job of pumping blood out to the body. Heart failure affects more than 23 million people worldwide with more than half over the age of 75. Even when receiving optimal care, these older patients often suffer a poor quality of life, with persistent symptoms and hospitalizations.
The VINDICATE study involved 163 patients already being treated for heart failure using a proven and accepted treatment. Study participants took either vitamin D3 or placebo pills for one year. They used a technique known as ejection fraction (EF), which involves scanning the heart with an echocardiogram and measuring how much blood pumps away from the heart with each beat. In healthy people, the EF is usually between 60 and 70 percent. For the VINDICATE patients, the average ejection fraction was just 26 percent before the study began.
Study Results After One Year
Patients taking vitamin D3 experienced an improvement in heart function (EF), while the placebo patients remained unchanged. Patients taking vitamin D3 saw their heart pumping function improve by 8 percent, with the EF rising to 34 percent. The researchers concluded that this was a significant breakthrough.
Source: Witte K, Gierula J, Paton MF et al. Vitamin D Supplementation Improves Cardiac Function in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure. American College of Cardiology 65th Annual Scientific Session. 2016.
Which Vitamin D Supplement Should I Take?
The Vindicate Study was done with a vitamin D3 supplement with did not have calcium in it. This was because there is strong evidence that supplements that only contain calcium/vitamin D may raise the risk of heart attacks in certain older individuals. The exact metabolic pathways are complicated, but when vitamin K2 is added, calcium can be moved out of blood stream and into bone, possibly reducing the risk.
Magnical-D is one such supplement. It supports bones and muscles through a strengthening blend of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. It supports healthy bones and muscles through highly bioavailable forms of calcium, including calcium citrate and calcium malate.
It also combines the necessary vitamins and minerals that must be present to ensure maximum calcium absorption in the body, including magnesium, vitamin D3, and vitamin K.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that, along with calcium, is an important component of strong, healthy bones because it helps regulate the transport of calcium and mineralization of your bones. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium so that the body receives maximum benefits, while vitamin K helps ensure calcium build up in bones, not soft tissue, and supports kidneys and cardiovascular function. Numerous studies have shown that adequate calcium and vitamin D levels maintained throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin C provides a beneficial boost in supporting blood vessels and muscles as well as keeping bones and teeth healthy, and improves bone density.
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Witte K, Gierula J, Paton MF et al. Vitamin D Supplementation Improves Cardiac Function in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure. American College of Cardiology 65th Annual Scientific Session. 2016.