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- Those who get enough vitamin D are less likely to develop heart disease, according to new research.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 600 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.
- Other vitamin D benefits include a sunnier mood, stronger bones, and better protection during cold and flu season.
When it comes to being an overachiever, vitamin D seems to qualify. Research has linked deficiencies in the vitamin to higher risk of osteoporosis, and certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, and mood disorders. A recent study in the European Heart Journal suggests cardiovascular disease should be high on that list, too.
Researchers looked at data on nearly 300,000 people, including blood pressure, cardiac imaging, gene variants, and vitamin levels in the blood.
They found that people with lower-than-recommended levels of vitamin D are more likely to struggle with heart disease and higher blood pressure compared to those with adequate levels. For example, participants with the lowest concentrations had double the risk of heart disease as those with sufficient amounts.
Although it’s possible to get vitamin D from food—such as fatty fish, eggs, and fortified products like milk—the researchers noted that dietary options tend to be a relatively poor source of vitamin D compared to getting enough sunshine. (Hello, daily outdoor runs!)
For those in climates with less sun in the winter months, they suggested taking a daily supplement, particularly if you’re at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—having high blood pressure or a family history, for instance. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 600 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily for children (1 year and older) and adults. (Before starting on any new supplements, it’s important to consult your doctor or a sports dietitian.)
Want to get the most out of sun exposure, dietary choices, and supplements? Then be sure to focus on your gut health, suggested Deborah Kado, M.D., director of the Osteoporosis Clinic at UC San Diego Health. She was not involved in the recent study, but did publish research in the journal Nature that found people with impaired microbiomes didn’t absorb as much vitamin D as those with higher overall microbiome diversity.
That means incorporating healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise could optimize your vitamin D intake, she told Runner’s World. Not only could that lower heart disease risk, but it also give you that breadth of benefits connected to the vitamin, such as a sunnier mood, stronger bones, and better protection during cold and flu season.
“The health of the bacteria in our gut relate to being able to maximize vitamin D metabolism in the body for all sorts of important health issues, including osteoporosis and immune function,” she said. “The best strategy is to promote a nourishing environment for healthy gut bacteria.”
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