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Link between low vitamin D and heart disease varies by race

Posted on: July 10, 2013   by  Vitamin D Council


The link between low vitamin D and increased risk of heart disease varies by race and ethnicity, according to research published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Ian de Boer, MD, of the University of Washington, and colleagues were interested in the association of vitamin D status and heart disease risk in multi-ethnic populations. The authors used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, which included 6,436 participants ages 45 to 84 from six different facilities around the US. The participants did not have known heart disease and had vitamin D levels measured at baseline.

The participants were 38% white, 28% black, 22% Hispanic, and 12% of Chinese ancestry. The average vitamin D status of each group was 30, 19, 25, 27 ng/ml, respectively. During the mean 8 year follow up, there were 361 cardiovascular disease events.

The authors report that a 10 ng/ml decrease in vitamin D levels was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease events in whites and participants of Chinese ancestry. This same relationship wasn’t seen among black or Hispanic participants.

Keith Norris, MD, of the University of California Los Angeles, who co-wrote a paper with similar findings explains that the present study “reinforces what we’re seeing in medicine, [which] is a push toward personalized medicine where we’re really looking beyond what happens to a whole group of people, but how do we understand what’s happening at more [of] an individual level.”

Dr Boer and colleagues believe the difference between the racial/ethnic groups is most likely due to biological variations, specifically in vitamin D metabolism.

“Our study suggests that the risks and benefits of vitamin D supplementation should be evaluated carefully across race and ethnicity, and that the results of ongoing vitamin D clinical trials should be applied cautiously to individuals who are not white,” the authors explain.

They also advise caution in interpreting results for the Chinese and Hispanic populations, as their sample sizes for these groups were quite small.


Robinson-Cohen C, et al. Racial differences in the association of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration with coronary heart disease events. JAMA, 2013.

Neale T, et al. Race has role in vitamin D link to heart risk. MedpageToday, 2013.

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