Can a Simple Vitamin D Supplement Protect Your Heart?

Imagine if boosting your vitamin D intake could make your heart healthier. Sound too good to be true? A groundbreaking study from Australia has delved into this very question and unveiled some remarkable insights.


Key Finding

Regular vitamin D supplements might reduce serious heart-related issues, like heart attacks, in older adults.

Actionable insight

Start taking vitamin D supplements daily at least at the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) dose of 600 IU. But remember, science suggests we could do better, and a dose of 2000 IU – higher than the RDA, yet well within the safe upper limit of 4000 IU – was found to have significant heart health benefits.


The results of a large, recently published study suggest that taking regular doses of vitamin D might lower the risk of major cardiovascular events in older adults, particularly those already on cardiovascular medications.1Thompson B, Waterhouse M, English DR, McLeod DS, Armstrong BK, Baxter C, Duarte Romero B, Ebeling PR, Hartel G, Kimlin MG, Rahman ST, van der Pols JC, Venn AJ, Webb PM, Whiteman DC, Neale RE. Vitamin D supplementation and major cardiovascular events: D-Health randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2023 Jun 28;381:e075230. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2023-075230. PMID: 37380191; PMCID: PMC10302209. Source The study, known as the D-Health Trial, was carried out in Australia and included over 21,000 participants between the ages of 60 and 84.

The study design was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial – the gold standard in clinical research. Participants were divided into two groups. One group received 60,000 IU of vitamin D3 per month for up to five years, while the control group received a placebo.

Using 30 days as an approximation, 60,000 IU per month would equate to roughly 2,000 IU per day, which is approximately 50 micrograms (mcg) per day. IU stands for International Unit, a unit often used to measure the quantity of vitamins and medicines. This amount is much higher than the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for vitamin D, affirming the substantial dosage used in this study.2 Vitamin D. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals Source

Vitamin D: RDA vs. Optimal Dosage

The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for vitamin D were much lower:

  • For adults up to age 70, the RDA is 600 IU (15mcg) per day.
  • For adults over 70, the RDA is 800 IU (20mcg) per day.

However, the tolerable upper intake level (the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects) is 4,000 IU (100 mcg) for adults. So, while the 2,000 IU (50 mcg) daily equivalent from this study is higher than the RDA, it’s still within the range considered safe for most people.

The major outcomes measured in the study were incidences of severe cardiovascular events, including heart attacks (myocardial infarction), strokes, and procedures to improve blood flow to the heart (coronary revascularization).

The findings revealed that the group receiving vitamin D supplementation had a slightly lower rate of major cardiovascular events. Of the participants receiving vitamin D, 6.0% experienced a major cardiovascular event compared to 6.6% in the placebo group. The reduction was especially noticeable among those who were already taking cardiovascular medications at the outset of the trial, such as cholesterol-lowering pills and blood pressure medications.

The findings revealed that the group receiving vitamin D supplementation had a slightly lower rate of major cardiovascular events, primarily heart attacks.

The research also highlighted a significant reduction in the rate of heart attacks and coronary revascularisations in the group receiving vitamin D. However, the rates of stroke were similar in both groups.

It should be noted that the absolute risk difference was relatively small, and the confidence interval (a statistical measure of certainty) did not entirely rule out the possibility that these results could have been due to chance. Nevertheless, the study shines a spotlight on the potential of vitamin D supplementation as a preventative measure against severe cardiovascular events.

Did You Know? Foods Rich in Vitamin D

While supplements can be a helpful way to ensure adequate vitamin D intake, certain foods naturally contain this nutrient or are fortified with it. Here are some examples:

  1. Fatty Fish. Fish like cod, salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are rich in vitamin D.
  2. Egg Yolks. Eggs are a versatile and easy way to get vitamin D. It’s found in the yolks, so make sure to use the whole egg in your preparation.
  3. Mushrooms: Certain types of mushrooms, especially those exposed to ultraviolet light, are rich in vitamin D.
  4. Fortified Foods. Many types of milk (cow’s, soy, almond), orange juice, and cereals are fortified with vitamin D.

Remember, while these foods can contribute to your vitamin D intake, it can still be challenging to get enough from diet alone, especially if your needs are higher than the current recommendations.

This study stands out as one of the largest of its kind, underlining the importance of elevated vitamin D supplementation. Designing and measuring the results of supplement studies is typically challenging, yet this research provides a compelling case for revisiting traditional daily vitamin D dosage recommendations.


Free Stock photos by Vecteezy

Vitamin D and Longevity

Indeed, the conversation about vitamin D extends beyond just heart health. Many experts in the field of longevity are increasingly highlighting the benefits of higher vitamin D supplementation for overall health and longevity.

Vitamin D, often known as the “sunshine vitamin,” plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions. Besides supporting heart health, it also contributes to strong bones by aiding calcium absorption, helps modulate the immune system, and may have a role in supporting mental health.

Given its broad range of influence on our health, the optimal vitamin D levels for longevity could be higher than what is currently recommended.3 The 3 Daily Supplements Everyone Should Be Taking For Longevity | Mark Hyman Source 4 Dr. Rhonda Patrick: Micronutrients for Health & Longevity | Huberman Lab Podcast #70 Source Many longevity experts, including Dr. Andrew Huberman, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Dr. Rhonda Patrick, to name just a few, believe that many of us aren’t getting enough vitamin D. They suggest that taking more than the currently recommended amount could help us stay healthier and more vibrant. In fact, many of these experts practice what they preach, taking higher doses of vitamin D themselves.


In conclusion, as one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, the D-Health Trial paves the way for a deeper understanding of the role of vitamin D supplementation in promoting heart health and longevity. Designing and executing large-scale supplement studies often poses significant challenges, yet this research successfully navigated these hurdles to provide intriguing insights.

The study’s results advocate for a revision of conventional daily vitamin D dosage recommendations, echoing the growing chorus of longevity experts who emphasize the potential health and lifespan benefits of higher vitamin D supplementation.

For a deeper dive into vitamin D, as well as an overview of six other key vitamins for optimal health, check out our previous article 7 Anti-Aging Vitamins for Health and Longevity.

Resources

  • 1
    Thompson B, Waterhouse M, English DR, McLeod DS, Armstrong BK, Baxter C, Duarte Romero B, Ebeling PR, Hartel G, Kimlin MG, Rahman ST, van der Pols JC, Venn AJ, Webb PM, Whiteman DC, Neale RE. Vitamin D supplementation and major cardiovascular events: D-Health randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2023 Jun 28;381:e075230. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2023-075230. PMID: 37380191; PMCID: PMC10302209. Source
  • 2
    Vitamin D. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals Source
  • 3
    The 3 Daily Supplements Everyone Should Be Taking For Longevity | Mark Hyman Source
  • 4
    Dr. Rhonda Patrick: Micronutrients for Health & Longevity | Huberman Lab Podcast #70 Source
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