June 23, 2008 -- A new study shows that people who have low levels of vitamin D in their blood had a greater risk of dying.
Researchers led by Harald Dobnig, MD, of the Medical University of Graz, Austria, tracked 3,258 men and women who had been referred for an angiogram of their heartarteries. More than two-thirds had significant blockages in their coronary arteries.
The patients were followed for about eight years. During that time, 737 of them died, including 463 from cardiovascular problems.
Researchers found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood had the highest chances of dying. Although chances of dying due to heart disease rose with decreasing levels of vitamin D, dying from other causes was more likely, too. Patients with little coronary artery disease were still much more likely to die during follow-up if they had low vitamin D levels.
It's not yet known whether low levels of vitamin D can trigger death from heart disease. Researchers say intervention trials using vitamin D could help establish if there is a causal relationship.
Global Low Vitamin D
In an article accompanying the research, the researchers report that on average both older and younger people around the world may not be getting enough vitamin D.
They speculate that it may be due to air pollution, a lack of outdoor activities, and increased urbanization, with more people staying and working indoors.
Vitamin D is naturally produced by your body when it is exposed to the sun, although sunscreens interfere with this process. As we age, vitamin D production slows down as well.
They also believe it may affect how plaque is produced and builds up in the artery walls. The vitamin's anti-inflammatory properties may also be protective against a host of other diseases, including immune disorders and cancer.