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How is Sunshine Vitamin Related to Heart Disease Prevention?

Posted Feb 10 2009 10:16am
Vitamin-D is produced in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. That is why people also name it as ‘sunshine vitamin’. It can be found in milk and in fatty fish like salmon. It helps absorb calcium, and it is considered important for bone health. A deficiency of Vitamin-D can lead to osteoporosis for adults, and rickets in children.

Researchers from the University of Graz in Austria reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine on June 23, 2008 that people without enough Vitamin-D are at a higher risk of dying sooner than those with a higher amount of Vitamin-D.

As suggested by the Austrian researchers, the death rates from heart disease as well as any other causes varied greatly depending on Vitamin-D. Being considered as the latest to associate health benefits with Vitamin-D, the study showed that Vitamin-D did affect mortality irrespective of the first primary reason for death.

More than 3,200 people with an average age of 62 were involved in the study. These participants were scheduled for a heart examination between 1997 and 2000. During the 8-year follow-up program, the researchers found that the quarter of volunteers with the lowest levels of Vitamin-D were more likely to have died.

The risk was doubled for people with between 5 to 10 nanograms per milliliter of Vitamin-D in their blood, even after taking into account of heart disease, exercise and other conditions.

The study did not highlight what causes this effect, but a number of recent studies have already suggested that Vitamin-D might protect against cancer, peripheral artery disease and tuberculosis. In fact, United States researchers indicated just a week earlier (mid June 2008) that Vitamin-D might extend the lives of people who had colon and rectal cancer.

A consensus among doctors is that people should have at least 20 to 30 nanograms per milliliter of Vitamin-D in their blood. Most people, however, just do not have enough of it. People with low levels of Vitamin-D cannot make up for it safely just by sitting in the sun. Instead, they have to take supplements.

The new findings should prod doctors to be more aware of the problem, especially for those immobile, elderly and others who spend a great deal of time indoors. Meanwhile, the researchers also hope that the results would prompt people to perform measurements on Vitamin-D more frequently, especially for those populations at risk.
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