A University of Leeds study found that a daily intake of the supplement can improve the cardiac function of those with heart dysfunction. Dr Klaus Witte, from the School of Medicine and Consultant Cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, led the study, known as VINDICATE.
He said: This is a significant breakthrough for patients. It is the first evidence that vitamin D3 can improve heart function of people with heart muscle weakness, known as heart failure. These findings could make a significant difference to the care of heart failure patients.
Vitamin D3 can be boosted by exposure to sunlight, but heart failure patients are often deficient in it even during the summer because older people make less vitamin D3 in response to sunlight than younger people. Vitamin D3 production in the skin is also reduced by sunscreen. Actually it is estimated that over 75% of the British population has deficient D3 levels.
The study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council, involved more than 160 patients from Leeds who were already being treated for their heart failure using proven treatments including beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors and pacemakers. Participants were asked to take vitamin D3 or a dummy (placebo) tablet for one year. Those patients who took vitamin D3 experienced an improvement in heart function which was not seen in those who took a placebo.
Changes in heart function were measured by cardiac ultrasound. Heart specialists measure heart function by taking an ultrasound scan of the heart (known as an echocardiogram) and measuring how much blood pumps from the heart with each heartbeat, known as ejection fraction. The ejection fraction of a healthy person is usually between 60% and 70%. In heart failure patients, the ejection fraction is often significantly impaired - in the patients enrolled into the VINDICATE study the average ejection fraction was 26%.
In the 80 patients who took Vitamin D3, the heart´s pumping function improved from 26% to 34%. In the others, who took placebo, there was no change in cardiac function.
This means that for some heart disease patients, taking vitamin D3 regularly may lessen the need for them to be fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device which detects dangerous irregular heart rhythms and can shock the heart to restore a normal rhythm.
ICDs are expensive and involve an operation, said Dr Witte. If we can avoid an ICD implant in just a few patients, then that is a boost to patients and the NHS as a whole.
One key aspect of this study is that the researchers avoided using a calcium-based supplement, as calcium can cause further problems for heart failure patients. The findings from the VINDICATE study will be presented at the American College of Cardiology 65th Annual Scientific Session & Expo in Chicago on April 4.
Heart failure affects about 900,000 people in the UK and more than 23 million worldwide. The condition can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in older people. More than half of all people globally with heart failure are over the age of 75.
Sofar this report from The British Journal- the NHS reacted promptly and indicated:
People in the vitamin D group showed encouraging improvements in measures of left ventricular function, a gauge of how well blood is pumped from the heart with each heartbeat. But the study was unable to show any vitamin D-related improvements in the main symptoms of heart failure, and showed no improvement in walking distance. Given that backdrop, it's a stretch to describe the hearts as "healed" or call the results "stunning". Still, these are early days. Larger and longer-term studies may find out whether these heart changes improve the main symptoms of the condition over time.
As a believer in the benefits of Vitamin D3 I can only state that my LVEF was recently measured at 56 - which is way up from prior measurements in the middle 40ties in 2005/7 to 50 in 2010. Despite the MACE which I experienced just before X-mas in 2015 my cardiac health I believe is improving by some stretch and it definitely shows in my walking performance, which is slowly but surely improving". More to come in the "about" section. I also believe the dosage for the patients in the VINDICATE study (which you can DOWNLOAD below) was way too low to have any major impact. That they stopped calcium supplementation was good, but also Vitamin K2 (MK7) needs to be added to lead the calcium from the arteries into bone, where it belongs. My argument on dosage is clearly supported by the additional paper I attach to DOWNLOAD A finnish study - about the "errors" in RDA levels required should be self-explanatory. My own level I always keep greater than 80 ng/ml !!. To express that in nmol/l you multiply with 2.5 - so that equates to 200 nmol/l.