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Do vitamin D supplements provide the same effect on cholesterol levels as sunlight?

Posted on: June 5, 2017   by  Amber Tovey


A new randomized controlled trial published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that daily sun exposure significantly reduced total cholesterol levels; whereas, vitamin D supplements increased total cholesterol.

High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. When a person has elevated cholesterol levels, they are at a greater risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. More than a million Americans have heart attacks, and approximately 500,000 people die from heart disease each year. 

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9 Responses to Do vitamin D supplements provide the same effect on cholesterol levels as sunlight?

  1. karenjaninaz

    The group who walked outside for 20min may have lowered their cholesterol or kept it from rising by exercise. As opposed to the supplement only group who did not exercise.

    • Amber Tovey

      Karen, thank you so much for pointing this out. This study limitation is definitely something to be considered.

  2. Mackay

    A. Without any of the actual numbers it’s impossible to assess this study. We are only left with editorializing – “significant,” whatever that means.

    B. Total cholesterol has a weak correlation with cardio vascular events which is why the recommended serum levels keep getting revised downward. (220, 200, 180).

  3. kpw413@me.com

    1,000 IU per day is NOT enough to show a positive benefit. Why to researchers continue to use out dated recommended levels of D3 in their studies. For once, let’s do this study with 5,000 IU D3 or more!

    • Amber Tovey

      I completely agree with you! I always get excited when I come across a RCT that uses daily dosing of around 5000 IU daily, because it rarely happens.

  4. robertjmjrs38499500

    So where did this scary info come from and why promulgate it if it is not even specific enough to work with it?

  5. dl20257300

    Thanks for the link to the article. I agree with the comments: cholesterol levels do not seem to correlate well with cardiovascular disease. Good story, not supported by data. However, HDL levels are beneficial for a variety of functions. Much of the increase in total cholesterol with vitamin D supplement in this study is an increase in HDL, therefore good, not bad.

  6. Michael

    “Vitamin D increased my cholesterol”
    From a blog post by Dr. William Davis

    One of the spectacular changes that develops over a year of taking vitamin D is that HDL cholesterol skyrockets. While sensitivity to this effect varies (probably on a genetic basis), HDL increases of 10, 20, even 30 mg/dl are common. A starting HDL, for instance, of 45 mg/dl can jump up to 65 or 70 mg/dl, though the effect requires up to a year, sometimes longer.

    Vitamin D can also reduce triglycerides, though the effect is relatively small, usually no more than 20 mg/dl or so. Likewise, the effect on LDL is minor, with a modest reduction in the small type of LDL.

    So the dominant effect of vitamin D from a cholesterol standpoint is a substantial increase in HDL. Looking at the equation, you can see that an increase in HDL is accompanied by a commensurate increase in total cholesterol. If HDL goes up 25 mg/dl, total cholesterol goes up 25 mg/dl.
    – See more at: http://www.cureality.com/blog/post/2009/10/02/vitamin-d-increased-my-cholesterol.html#sthash.cjXE6vs6.dpuf

  7. Ron Carmichael

    A study of Japanese women determined that simple sun exposure of arms and face was inadequate to increase blood levels to Mother Nature standards.
    India is far closer to the Equator than Japan, so one might expect to see some difference, albeit a small one, for this cohort.
    One would also expect to see far more vasodilation related to this moderate exercise than related to sun exposure.

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