Study finds inadequate levels of Vitamin D may significantly increase risk of stroke, heart disease and death
For more than a year, the Intermountain Medical Center research team followed 27,686 patients who were 50 years of age or older with no prior history of cardiovascular disease. The participants had their blood Vitamin D levels tested during routine clinical care. The patients were divided into three groups based on their Vitamin D levels – normal (over 30 nanograms per milliliter), low (15-30 ng/ml), or very low (less than 15 ng/ml). The patients were then followed to see if they developed some form of heart disease.
Researchers found that patients with very low levels of Vitamin D were 77 percent more likely to die, 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease, and 78 percent were more likely to have a stroke than patients with normal levels. Patients with very low levels of Vitamin D were also twice as likely to develop heart failure than those with normal Vitamin D levels. [emphasis added]
A wealth of research has already shown that Vitamin D is involved in the body’s regulation of calcium, which strengthens bones — and as a result, its deficiency is associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Recently, studies have also linked Vitamin D to the regulation of many other bodily functions including blood pressure, glucose control, and inflammation, all of which are important risk factors related to heart disease. From these results, scientists have postulated that Vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to heart disease itself.
"We concluded that among patients 50 years of age or older, even a moderate deficiency of Vitamin D levels was associated with developing coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, and death," she says. "This is important because Vitamin D deficiency is easily treated. If increasing levels of Vitamin D can decrease some risk associated with these cardiovascular diseases, it could have a significant public health impact. When you consider that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, you understand how this research can help improve the length and quality of people’s lives."
Now for the bad news.
For the second time in as many years, a large clinical trial has found that the key ingredient in the heavily advertised drug Vytorin provides little or no benefit in preventing heart disease compared to a competing product. The ingredient is ezetemibe, which blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. It is sold alone under the brand name Zetia or in combination with the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin under the brand name Vytorin. The combination of drugs has been shown to reduce cholesterol more than simvastatin alone, but that apparently does not translate into a lower risk of heart disease.
In the original trial, reported last year in January, Vytorin was compared with generic simvastatin in a group of 720 patients with a genetic disorder called heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, in which unusually high levels of low-density lipoproteins, commonly known as LDL or "bad" cholesterol, accumulate in the blood, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Vytorin reduced the level of LDL in the blood of the patients by 58%, compared with a 41% reduction produced by simvastatin, which blocks production of cholesterol in the liver. But to determine how the drugs affected the risk of heart disease, researchers looked at the thickness of plaque in the carotid and other arteries. Thicker plaque increases the risk of plaque breaking off and producing clots that lead to heart attacks. The researchers found that plaque actually grew slightly more in the patients taking Vytorin than it did in those taking only simvastatin. Since then, prescriptions for Zetia have fallen from nearly 16.5 million in 2007 to less than 13 million in 2008, while those for Vytorin fell from 22 million to 16.5 million. The new results could lead to further declines.
And that’s not even the whole story. Turns out niacin (vitamin B3, nicotenic acid) is actually more effective than statins in improving an LDL particle profile, raising HDL, and improving cartoid artery intima thickness (arterial plaques actually increased in size under statin therapy alone).
Both Dr. Driffa and Dr. Eades have posts about this. And by the way, while the statins are a multi-billion-dollar annual fraud and scam, both vitamin D and niacin can be had for a few dollars per month.