Vitamin D has received tremendous interest over the last ten years. One of the many things to come out about Vitamin D is that is that it protects against vascular calcification. Vascular calcification causes or contributes to:
- Stiff arteries
- Poor elasticity
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Congestive heart failure
- Early death
That is terrible. Not long ago calcification was considered a normal part of aging. Then it was considered an issue of cholesterol and a high fat diet. The contributions of dietary cholesterol and dietary fats continue to be explored and challenged, however, researchers are uncovering other factors. Vitamin D insufficiency has been strongly associated with risk of poor health and death. This includes increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Research groups are now working to figure out more of the details.
Chronic Vitamin D Deficiency vs. On-again Off-again Vitamin D deficiency
A recent article in the Journal of Nutrition reports on an investigation of Vitamin D and vascular calcification. The study used groups mice. It lasted 32weeks. Different groups of mice were fed either
- mouse version of a typical Western diet with adequate vitamin D for 16 weeks
- mouse version of a typical Western diet with low vitamin D for 16 weeks
- mouse version of a typical Western diet low vitamin D for 32 weeks
- mouse version of a typical Western diet with low vitamin D for 16 weeks then switched to a normal D diet for another 16 weeks.
Mice on the 16 week low vitamin D diet had more calcified arteries than mice fed the higher vitamin D diet, but not by that much. (See the article for details). The low vitamin D diet, however. turned up something interesting:
- Vascular cells in the Low Vitamin D mice appeared to change into osteoblast-like cells. Osteoblasts are build bone. They also create dense, crosslinked collagen and create a matrix for bone. This may not be the best thing for vascular health.
- Mice fed a low D diet for 32 weeks had significantly more plaque than other mice, more osteoblast-like cells and more tumor necrosis factor.
- Mice who were returned to the normal D diet had less calcification. This is a nice finding. It looks like increasing vitamin D will improve the quality of arteries if your diet has been low in vitamin D.
It looks like low vitamin D plays a strong role in hardening of the arteries. Not all is lost, Damage you have accumulated to date may be reduceable. Please note too that this was a study of dietary vitamin D and not vitamin D made through sun exposure. You can make your own vitamin D with exposure to sun light. Please remember not to go overboard. Too much vitamin D may also cause calcification of arteries.
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Nadine Schmidt, Corinna Brandsch, Alexandra Schutkowski, Frank Hirche, & Gabriele I. Stangl (2014). Dietary Vitamin D Inadequacy Accelerates Calcification and Osteoblast-Like Cell Formation in the Vascular System of LDL Receptor Knockout and Wild-Type Mice Journal of Nutrition
Ellam T, Hameed A, Ul Haque R, Muthana M, Wilkie M, Francis SE, & Chico TJ (2014). Vitamin d deficiency and exogenous vitamin d excess similarly increase diffuse atherosclerotic calcification in apolipoprotein e knockout mice. PloS one, 9 (2) PMID: 24586387