Do vitamin D supplements reduce cancer, cardiovascular risk?

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A new study searches for links between vitamin D supplements, cancer, and heart disease. Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy
  • Initial research has suggested that vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • However, there have been few large, higher-quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to corroborate this.
  • A recent RCT examined the effects of vitamin D supplementation in Finland.
  • It found no association between vitamin D supplementation and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which improves bone strength. Among other roles, it also contributes to the functioning of muscles, nerves, and the immune system.

Many scientists have set out to understand how vitamin D deficiency and supplementation may influence disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is some evidence that vitamin D may help protect against respiratory tract infections, for example.

Over the past 2 years, researchers have also explored whether vitamin D reduces the risks associated with COVID-19. Although investigations are ongoing, there seems to be some evidence that these supplements might improve intensive care unit admission rates.

Two other areas of particular interest are vitamin D’s potential effects on cardiovascular disease and cancer risk. However, few RCTs have looked into this. These types of studies are the gold standard for identifying causal relationships in scientific research.

A recent study, which appears in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, goes some way toward addressing this knowledge gap.

Speaking with Medical News Today, Vimal Karani, a professor of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, confirmed that there has been a gap between the initial research and findings from clinical trials.

Prof. Karani was not involved in the recent study but has worked with some of its authors.

He explained that past large epidemiological studies “have established a link between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of [cardiovascular disease] traits in various ethnic groups.” This, he said, suggests that vitamin D supplements might lower cardiovascular risk.

“However,” he continued, “clinical trials have not provided convincing evidence of the blood pressure-lowering effect of vitamin D supplementation.”

Prof. Karani said that there could be a wide range of reasons for this, including “differences in the sample size, duration of supplementation, dose of the supplementation, age of the participants, geographical location, sun exposure, and the outcome measures. Further research is required to replicate the findings in multiple ethnic groups.”

To provide further evidence of the relationship between vitamin D, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, the researchers behind the present study conducted the Finnish Vitamin D Trial.

This took place between 2012 and 2018, and it was double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled.

“When we started to plan the trial, there was a lot of evidence from observational studies that vitamin D deficiency would be associated with nearly all major chronic diseases, such as [cardiovascular disease], cancer, type 2 diabetes, and also mortality,” said Dr. Jyrki Virtanen in an interview with Medical

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A new study reveals the importance of vitamin D on heart health

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Vitamin D status may help assess cardiovascular risk. Cyndi Monaghan/Getty Images
  • Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine” vitamin, is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in two main forms: D-2 and D-3.
  • As an essential micronutrient and one that is primarily derived from sunlight, vitamin D is important for the development of bones and teeth and the regular functioning of the immune system.
  • Beyond these functions, previous studies suggest an association between low vitamin D levels and a higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.
  • In a new study, researchers have established that it is worthwhile to check vitamin D levels when assessing a person’s cardiovascular risk.

Worldwide, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are one of the leading causes of death. Every year, an estimated 17.9 million people around the world die as a result of complications from heart diseases. For context, this means that CVDs are responsible for 32% of all deaths globally.

Prior studies show that various factors — such as several health conditions, age, family history, diet, and lifestyle — combine to influence the risk of developing CVD.

Using a novel analytical approach, researchers in Australia have discovered an additional factor that may increase a person’s likelihood of CVD.

Lead author Prof. Elina Hyppönen, director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute, outlined the results of the study for Medical News Today,

“We found evidence that vitamin D deficiency can increase blood pressure and the risk of CVD.”

“However,” she added, “increasing vitamin D concentrations will only be helpful for those participants who ‘need it,’ and further benefits from elevating concentrations beyond the nutritional requirement are going to be modest, if they exist.”

The results from the study appear in the European Heart Journal.

In the recent study, the researchers set out to investigate whether there is a relationship between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D, and the risk of developing CVD.

Serum 25(OH)D levels are an established marker for vitamin D status.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers employed a specific analytical method to analyze data from UK Biobank — a large prospective cohort study of the United Kingdom’s population aged 37–73 years.

The participants were recruited from 22 assessment centers across the U.K. between March 13, 2006, and October 1, 2009. They filled out questionnaires providing broad information on health and lifestyle at baseline and provided blood samples for biomarker and genetic assays.

For the study, the research team limited data analyses to unrelated individuals who were identified as white British based on self-report and genetic profiling. Additionally, the team excluded participants with mismatched information between self-reported and genetic sex.

After filtering, the research team conducted genetic assays among individuals with complete information on 25(OH)D concentrations. As a safety measure, they also collected variables — including age, sex, and time of sample collection — that could affect serum 25(OH)D measurements.

The scientists collected this information from up to 295,788 participants.

The researchers compared the

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