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By: David Liu

It is no news that black Americans are more likely to die from cardiovascular events compared to whites.  A study in the Jan 11, 2010 issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine suggests what makes the difference is vitamin D deficiency.

The study of 15,000 American adults led by Kevin Fiscella of University of Rochester Medical Center and colleagues found vitamin D deficiency was linked with higher risk of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Black people are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency largely because their dark skin pigment prevents the skin from producing vitamin D, which has been found essential in numerous physiological functions.

Early studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to many diseases including up to 17 types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, and periodontal disease among others, according to Dr. John Cannell, one of most knowledgeable vitamin D experts in the world and founder of a non-profi organization called Vitamin D Council.

For the study, the researchers collected data on serum levels of vitamin D and death rates due to cardiovascular disease and other factors that contribute to heart disease including body mass index, smoking status and C – reactive protein.

Fiscella found an inverse association between plasma vitamin D levels and risk of death from cardiac illness. Specifically, those who had the worst vitamin D deficiency were at a 40 percent increased risk of death from cardiac disease.

Additionally, the blacks were found 38 percent more likely to die than whites. The researchers also found that as vitamin D levels rose, the death risk decreased.

A study reported on Nov 16, 2009 suggests maintaining high levels of vitamin D in the blood helps reduce risk of stroke, heart disease and death significantly even in healthy people who never have heart disease.

People with very low levels of serum vitamin D were 77 percent more likely to die, 45 percent more likely to suffer coronary artery disease and 78 percent were more likely to have a stroke than those with normal levels of the sunshine vitamin, according to the study.


Study subjects with very low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to suffer heart failure as those who had normal vitamin D levels.

The research was conducted by researchers at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City and the findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Conference on Monday, Nov. 16 in Orlando, Florida.

The studies have merely associated vitamin D with cardiovascular disease and death from the disease.  However, the possibility is real.

Among other things, vitamin D is found to have anti-inflammatory effects, which are related to cardiovascular disease, according to an article by Mertens PR, Müller R. of Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg in Germany.

The authors published their study in the Dec 29, 2009 issue of International Urology and Nephrology.

What do you need to do if you want to try vitamin D to reduce heart risk?

Dr. John Cannell suggests the following on his website “If you use suntan parlors once a week or if you live in Florida and sunbathe once a week, year-round, do nothing. However, if you have little UVB exposure, my advice is as follows: healthy children under the age of 1 year should take 1,000 IU per day – over the age of 1, 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight per day. Well adults and adolescents should take 5,000 IU per day. Two months later have a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test, either through ZRT or your doctor.”

Dr. Cannell also suggests that a person needs to maintain 50 to 80 ng/ml of serum vitamin D to fight diseases including heart disease.

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