Boston, MA (PressExposure) July 06, 2011 -- Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found yet another health benefit associated with vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin has been purported to protect against cancer, asthma, fatigue, and arthritis. Now, Harvard researchers have this health advice: vitamin D could protect against heart disease -- especially if you are a man.
A research team followed nearly 119,000 adults for two decades. Out of 45,000 men, there were about 5,000 new cases of cardiovascular disease over the study period. These were defined by an incident of heart attack, stroke, or death attributed to cardiovascular disease.
The researchers then accounted for a range of factors, like age, weight, exercise levels and diet habits, such as fat intake. They discovered that men who got at least 600 IU of vitamin D from food and supplements had a 16% lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared to men who got less than 100 IU of vitamin D per day.
Interestingly though, for women, there was no correlation between vitamin-D intake and cardiovascular health. It's not clear why that is, the researchers say. One possibility is that women may have less active vitamin D circulating in the blood. Vitamin D is stored in fat, and women typically have a higher percentage of body fat than men do.
In theory, vitamin D could help ward off heart disease and stroke. Vitamin D could help maintain healthy blood vessel function and blood pressure levels, reduce inflammation in the blood vessels, and aid blood sugar control. But the researchers say more clinical trials are needed to prove these health benefits.
In the meantime, they suggest, stick with your doctor's advice about how to protect your heart. You'll also want to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, avoid smoking, and eat a well-balanced diet.
To boost your vitamin-D levels and improve your natural health, get 10 to 15 minutes of sun on your arms and face, without applying sunscreen first. Sunlight triggers vitamin-D synthesis in your body. Dietary sources of vitamin D are relatively rare, but you can try these healing foods to boost levels: salmon; mackerel; and fortified dairy products and cereals.