People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing clogged arteries, often leading to heart disease; vitamin D deficiency may play a role.
The research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry reports that blood vessels are less likely to clog in diabetic patients who have adequate vitamin D levels. In patients with vitamin D deficiency, immune cells bind to blood vessels near the heart, and trap cholesterol to block the blood vessels.
According to the American Diabetes Association, about 8.3% (26 million) of the American population has diabetes.
“As obesity rates rise, we expect even more people will develop diabetes. Those patients are more likely to experience heart problems due to an increase in vascular inflammation, so we have been investigating why this occurs,” says contributing author Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, MD.
The researchers measured vitamin D levels in 43 participants with type 2 diabetes, and 25 age, sex, and weight matched controls. They found that in diabetes patients with vitamin D levels less than 30 ng/mL, macrophage cells were more likely to attach to the walls of blood vessels, causing cholesterol buildup, and ultimately causing the vessels to stiffen and block blood flow.
“We looked at blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes control, body weight and race. But only vitamin D levels correlated to whether these cells stuck to the blood vessel wall,” lead author Amy E Riek, MD, explained.
The next step in the research will be to determine if giving vitamin D supplements to people with diabetes will reverse their risk of developing clogged arteries. The authors are currently investigating this by treating mice with vitamin D to see whether it can prevent macrophages from adhering to the blood vessel walls near the heart. They are also conducting two clinical trials in diabetes patients.
In the first trial the researchers are giving vitamin D supplements to diabetic patients with hypertension to see if the treatment lowers blood pressure. In the second study, the authors are supplementing type 2 diabetic African Americans with vitamin D along with their other daily medications to determine whether vitamin D can slow or even reverse the progression of heart disease.
We will track the results of the current studies and report the results when the studies are complete.