It’s no surprise to see vitamin D making headlines again, this time related to research suggesting it is a powerhouse to prevent and restore damage done to your heart.1 Previously, scientists linked changes to your endothelium — a unique organ system that lines your entire circulatory system — with serious health conditions, such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and tumor growth.
Now, a new study2 suggests vitamin D3 plays a vital role in protecting and restoring the damage those diseases do to your endothelium. In addition, the findings suggest the presence of vitamin D3 also triggers nitric oxide, a molecule known to play an important signaling role in controlling blood flow and preventing blood clot formation in your blood vessels.
Furthermore, vitamin D3 was shown to significantly reduce oxidative stress in your vascular system, which is important to help prevent the development and/or progression of cardiovascular disease. If you haven’t checked your vitamin D blood level in the past six months, you now have another reason to do it — to protect your heart and decrease your risk of heart disease. For optimal health, you want a level in the 60 to 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) range.
If you live in a northern climate and are not able to enjoy regular sun exposure, I recommend you take an oral vitamin D supplement, as well as vitamin K2 and magnesium. Because they work synergistically, you need all three to ensure proper balance and maximum effectiveness.
Research Suggests Vitamin D3 Protects Your Heart
Research3 conducted at Ohio University suggests vitamin D3 has positive effects on your endothelium, the thin layer of tissue that lines the blood vessels within your vascular system. Published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine,4 the study describes how scientists used nanosensors and a cell model to identify the molecular mechanisms vitamin D3 triggers in your endothelium.
Several earlier studies had also highlighted vitamin D3’s positive effect on the endothelium, including its effects on patients battling chronic kidney disease (CKD) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).5,6,7,8 Individuals suffering from CKD and SLE have noticeable endothelial dysfunction and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Prior to these and other studies, your endothelium was thought to serve very little purpose other than facilitating the passage of electrolytes and water in and out of your bloodstream. That said, as mentioned, changes to your endothelium have been associated with serious diseases. In the current research, the presence of vitamin D3 was shown to:9
• Preserve your endothelium
• Restore your endothelium to health in cases where it has suffered damage due to one of the above-mentioned diseases
• Act as a powerful trigger of nitric oxide, a molecule known to play a vital signaling role in controlling blood flow and preventing the formation of blood clots in your blood vessels
• Reduce oxidative stress in your vascular system, which prevents the development and/or progression of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, among others
According to the researchers, led by professor Tadeusz Malinski, Ph.D., chair of Ohio University’s chemistry & biochemistry department, the study results suggest:10
“[T]reatment with vitamin D3 can significantly restore the damage to the cardiovascular system caused by several diseases, including hypertension, atherosclerosis and diabetes, while also reducing the risk of heart attack. These studies, performed on cells from Caucasian Americans and African-American, yielded similar results for both ethnic groups.”
While Malinski asserts many of those who suffer a heart attack present as vitamin D deficient, it doesn't mean the deficiency caused the heart attack. It’s more likely, he says, being deficient in vitamin D increased the person’s risk of having a heart attack. As such, optimizing your vitamin D3 level is an important consideration toward reducing your risk of heart disease.
“There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged, and vitamin D3 can do it,” stated Malinski. “This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system. We don’t have to develop a new drug. We already have it.”11
More Ways Vitamin D Supports Your Health and Well-Being
Despite its name, vitamin D is not a regular vitamin. It is actually a steroid hormone obtained primarily from sun exposure, and its ability to influence genetic expression produces many of its wide-ranging health benefits. A growing body of evidence shows vitamin D plays a crucial role in disease prevention and maintaining optimal health. Of the nearly 30,000 genes in your body, vitamin D affects nearly 3,000 of them, while also impacting vitamin D receptors located throughout your body.
Vitamin D is so important, research suggests simply increasing vitamin D3 levels in the general population could lower rates of chronic diseases such as depression, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, among others. Beyond contributing to strong bones, sufficient amounts of vitamin D can help reduce your risk of several types of cancer. Furthermore, vitamin D strengthens your immune system, which protects you from colds and the flu by helping your body attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.
Finally, there’s some evidence to suggest vitamin D deficiencies are linked to depression (particularly seasonal depression), especially among older adults. Researchers examining the effects of vitamin D on the moods of 80 elderly patients found the ones with the lowest vitamin D levels were 11 times more likely to suffer from depression.12