Vitamin D a day, just might keep heart disease away.

A recent study shows that supplements of vitamin D can decrease African-Americans’ risk for heart disease by improving the health of blood vessels. African-Americans are the most likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than any other group in America. They are also most likely to develop type 2 diabetes; a known contributor to heart disease. Due to darker pigmentation, African-American skin cells are unable to produce vitamin D, making them more likely to become vitamin D deficient. 

In the study conducted by researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta, 45 overweight African-American adults at risk for heart disease were separated into two groups. One group received 60,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D in a single dose every four weeks for 16 weeks, while the other group received a placebo. 

Prior to the study, researchers used ultrasound to measure the blood vessels’ ability to dilate. Poor dilation, known as endothelial dysfunction, is considered an early sign of ‘hardening of the arteries’, a condition which can lead to heart attack and stroke. After 16 weeks, researchers measured the dilation of the blood vessels once again and found that blood flow had improved for the adults being treated with vitamin D supplements. 

"This points to a beneficial effect of vitamin D supplementation on endothelial cell function," researcher Dr. Ryan A. Harris, an assistant professor at the university, said in the statement. "If you're deficient in vitamin D and you take supplements, you have a good probability of increasing endothelial function and therefore decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease."

How exactly vitamin D works in improving vessel dilation is unknown says Harris. “Vitamin D interacts with a lot of different systems in the body. It may decrease inflammation, which is better for endothelial function." Researchers are now looking into the long-term effects of vitamin D supplementation. 

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