While we often look to vitamin D to give our bones and immune system a boost, few people think of the vitamin for its heart-healing abilities. But now there’s more reason than ever to get your vitamin D.
New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the vitamin, which is technically a hormone, can help heal a damaged or diseased heart. The study assessed the effects of vitamin D supplements on heart function in people experiencing chronic heart failure.
In the randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, Klaus K. Witte, MD, FACC and his colleagues assessed 223 patients. The patients were given either 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 or a placebo. 163 participants completed the one-year-long study and were assessed to determine whether there was any change in their ability to walk a six-minute distance from the start of the study to one year later, the study completion date.
While there was no observable change in their ability to walk the six-minute distance, the researchers found that participants taking the vitamin D3 supplement had significant improvements in a particular heart function known as ejection fraction.
Ejection fraction (EF) is a measurement of the percentage of blood that leaves the heart each time it contracts, a responsibility assumed by the left ventricle of the heart. An ejection fraction of 55 percent or higher is considered normal. Lower than 50 percent is considered reduced. Study participants started with an average EF function of only 26 percent. After taking 4000 IU of vitamin D3 supplements daily for one year, their heart EF function had improved by 6.07 percent, which suggest a partial reversal of the condition and a significant improvement in heart function.
The study authors state that “New therapies for serious chronic conditions including chronic heart failure are often expensive, increasingly technical and frequently fail to meet the rigorous demands of large phase 3 clinical trials.” They add that “vitamin D might be a cheap and safe additional option for chronic heart failure patients and may have beneficial effects on multiple features of the syndrome.”
Earlier research in the medical journal Circulation showed that a deficiency in vitamin D is associated with heart disease, suggesting further research to determine whether vitamin D supplementation might improve heart health. The new Journal of the American College of Cardiology study suggests that the vitamin goes beyond boosting heart health to actually reversing a certain aspect of heart disease, even those individuals whose hearts have severely impaired functioning.
Vitamin D is needed in the gut to ensure calcium absorption. As a result, it also plays a critical role in bone health. But it is a vital hormone needed for the proper functioning of many aspects of our health. In fact, low levels have been linked to obesity, depression, diabetes and cancer.
The National Institutes of Health recommends getting 600 IUs of vitamin D daily and 800 IUs for seniors over the age of 70. However, the study dose of 4000 IUs is more in keeping with the amount many natural health professionals recommend as a daily dose.
While vitamin D can be obtained from moderate sunlight exposure (high sunlight exposure is not recommended), it is difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight, particularly in those with serious illness who may have higher vitamin D needs and less likelihood of outdoor sun exposure.