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The latest on cardiovascular disease and vitamin D

Posted on: October 3, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


When Dr. Carlos Camargo of Harvard University speaks, people listen. In September of 2011, he wrote an editorial in the most prestigious journal in cardiology, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Camargo CA Jr Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease Time for Large Randomized Trials. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Sep 27;58(14):1442-1444. No abstract available

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First, he discussed the growing number of studies that link low vitamin D levels to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. This editorial was specifically about another paper in the journal, one from Dr. Kestenbaum and colleagues at the University of Washington, finding that low vitamin D levels were linked to cardiovascular disease and death.

In this study of more than 2300 patients, the authors found that every 10 ng/ml lower 25(OH)D concentration was associated with a 9% greater hazard of death and a 25% greater risk of heart attack. Serum 25(OH)D concentrations <15 ng/ml were associated with a 29% greater risk of death.

Kestenbaum B, Katz R, de Boer I, Hoofnagle A, Sarnak MJ, Shlipak MG, Jenny NS, Siscovick DS.Vitamin D, Parathyroid Hormone, and Cardiovascular Events Among Older Adults. Kestenbaum B, Katz R, de Boer I, Hoofnagle A, Sarnak MJ, Shlipak MG, Jenny NS, Siscovick DS. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Sep 27;58(14):1433-1441.

Amazing. As noted in Dr. Camargo’s editorial, credit is due to the first man to propose the theory, a friend of mine, a first rate epidemiologist in New Zealand by the name of Professor Robert Scragg. Robert first proposed this theory with supporting evidence in 1981. Can you imagine what it has been like for him to wait 30 years, watching millions of people die needlessly and being unable to do anything about it but write? It is a name you should remember, Professor Robert Scragg.

Dr. Camargo went on to state his personal beliefs,

“On the basis of my review of the available data, I believe the optimal 25-OHD level for most health problems will be around 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) with small difference found in the range of 35 to 50 ng/ml.”

Because measuring techniques are somewhat unreliable, the Vitamin D Council recommends a minimum of 50 ng/ml (normal range 30-100 ng/ml).

Finally, you should know of two large, population based, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials on the health effects of vitamin D supplements that are now underway. The first is at Harvard, basically comparing 3,000 IU/day (2,000 as the active arm) and 1,000 IU/day (from food, calcium/vitamin D pill and sunshine), looking at cancer and heart disease; results available in 2017. A similar study is going on in New Zealand (by Drs. Camargo and Scragg), giving 100,000 IU/month, looking at heart disease, infection and fractures; results again available in 2017. Six years of waiting, but no need to wait on your vitamin D deficiency.

1 Response to The latest on cardiovascular disease and vitamin D

  1. Nandyal

    I think Dr Ignaz Semmelweiss was the most tragic figure in history medically speaking. Peripartum sepsis didn’t happen in his clinics and he knew it had something to do with washing hands. Couldn’t get anyone else to listen. At least we have each other to talk to, internet/modern communication methods to spread the news, Vit D tests to show improvement, research studies to cite. He died from frustration. I hope he knows, posthumously, how right he was.
    Still, KUDOS to Dr Scragg (and Dr Cannell!)

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