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Body + BrainBody & Brain

Vitamin D May Help Hearts Grow Stronger

ByAllison EckNOVA NextNOVA Next

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Vitamin D is known to be good for the bones, good for the teeth… and now good for the heart.

Thanks to a simple vitamin supplement, a trial on 163 heart failure patients found that one 100-microgram vitamin D tablet each day for a year boosted what’s called “ejection fraction”—the amount of blood pumped out of the heart with each beat—from 26% to 34%. In healthy patients, ejection fraction is around 60-70%.

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The skin’s ability to create vitamin D decreases with age, though scientists don’t know why. In addition, older people tend not to get as much sunlight—a major source of vitamin D (along with fish, eggs, and cheese). This study focused on people with an average age of 70 years old, so it’s a positive development that they were able to see such obvious health benefits as a result of making up for that deficiency.

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Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D.

Here’s James Gallagher, who interviewed consultant cardiologist Dr. Klaus Witte and reported the story for BBC News:

In a healthy adult, the figure is between 60% and 70%, but only a quarter of the blood in the heart was being successfully pumped out in the heart failure patients.

But in those taking the vitamin pills, the ejection fraction increased from 26% to 34%.

Dr Witte told the BBC News website: “It’s quite a big deal, that’s as big as you’d expect from other more expensive treatments that we use, it’s a stunning effect.

“It’s as cheap as chips, has no side effects and a stunning improvement on people already on optimal medical therapy, it is the first time anyone has shown something like this in the last 15 years.”

It’s not clear how exactly vitamin D influences heart function—and the Leeds Teaching Hospital team that conducted the trial isn’t sure whether or not this discovery can help extend lives in the long-term. But as experts learn more about the effect this simple supplement has on the body, we may see improvements in the quality of heart care in the years to come.

Photo credit: David DeHetre / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)