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Low Vitamin D Linked to Heart Risk
Date:1/7/2008

But experts are split on the need for supplements

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Low blood levels of vitamin D -- sourced through sunlight, some foods and supplements -- are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke, U.S. researchers report.

Their five years of research with participants in the Framingham Heart Study included 1,739 people, average age 59, living in that Massachusetts city.

The research team found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a 62 percent greater risk of a cardiovascular event than those with the next highest levels, according to a report published in the Jan. 7 issue of Circulation.

It's still too early to recommend routine vitamin D supplementation, however, said study author Dr. Thomas J. Wang, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He believes that there is still not enough evidence to put vitamin D deficiency on the same level as high cholesterol and other known risk factors.

"It is probably premature to consider vitamin D in the same light as those risk factors because this is one of the first clinical studies," Wang said. "We don't know whether increasing vitamin D levels with some kind of supplement decreases risk. That would require some kind of trial."

Vitamin D is known to be essential for strong bones, since it facilitates the body's uptake of calcium. One major source of the vitamin is sunlight -- an hour or so of sunlight on the skin each week allows the skin to produce blood levels of about 30 nanograms of vitamin D per liter of blood, more than enough to prevent a deficiency such as rickets, for example. Blacks need longer exposures than whites, however, since their skin pigment reduces formation of the vitamin.

Food sources of vitamin D include milk (which is fortified) and oily fishes such as salmon. Current recommendations from the U.S. Institu
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