A new study has suggested that vitamin D supplements may lower the risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks in older adults.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death globally.
While the functions of vitamin D include the protection of bones and muscles, research into its effects on heart and circulatory health has been less conclusive.
In the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ on June 28, experts at the QIMR Berghofer medical research institute in Queensland suggest that taking vitamin D in your 60s could reduce the chances of a heart attack.
The trial — said to be the largest of its kind — involved 21,315 Australians, aged between 60-84.
About half of the group took 60,000 IUs of vitamin D each month in supplement form, while the other half received a placebo orally for up to five years.
Researchers examined data on cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, strokes, and coronary revascularisation.
During the trial — which was monitored between 2014 and 2020 — 1,336 people experienced a major cardiovascular event; with 6.6 per cent in the placebo group and 6 per cent in the vitamin D group.
The researchers discovered that the rate of major cardiovascular events was 9 per cent lower in the vitamin D group compared with the placebo group — equivalent to 5.8 fewer events per 1,000 participants.
The rate of heart attack was 19% lower in the vitamin D group while there was no difference in stroke risk between the two groups.
Overall, the researchers calculate that 172 people would need to take monthly vitamin D supplements to prevent one major cardiovascular event.
The experts suggest the figure could improve if it was applied to other populations, such as people who are vitamin D deficient.
They also suggest more trials are needed to “evaluate the role of vitamin D supplementation, particularly in people taking drugs for prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease”.
“These findings indicate that vitamin D supplementation might reduce the incidence of major cardiovascular events,” the authors wrote.
“The effect was stronger in people who were taking medications to treat cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
“People who are not vitamin D deficient should be aware that the evidence that more vitamin D is beneficial for heart health benefits is suggestive but not conclusive.
“These findings could prompt further evaluation of the role of vitamin D supplementation, particularly in people taking drugs for prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease.”
Vitamin D is a type of vitamin that the human body gets from both diets and produces when exposed to sunlight.
It helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are nutrients needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.