Vitamin D is created from exposure to sunlight.
It is an essential vitamin that helps to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
It is is well understood that lacking the vitamin can lead to bone deformities, but growing research is linking vitamin D deficiency to heart complications.
A recent study published in journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research has suggested that vitamin D deficiency alone can lead to heart failure, possibly through insulin resistance.
Indian researchers found that cardiac insulin leads to functional deterioration of heart in animals with low vitamin D levels.
The utilisation of glucose and fatty acids – key fuels for energy generation in heart – is adversely affected due to insulin resistance in heart cells.
Insulin plays a critical role in regulation of cellular metabolism in many tissues in the body.
To study if vitamin D deficiency could cause cardiac damage similar to other risk factors like consumption of high fats and high calorie food, researchers designed an experiment with rats.
At the end of 20 weeks, it was found that the hearts of vitamin D deficient animals were failing.
They showed molecular and functional changes similar to the hearts of rats in high fat high fructose diet group.
“The cardiac dysfunction caused by vitamin D deficiency alone was very similar to that by the other risk factor – high calorie diet – sometimes even to a greater extent in some parameters. For example, cardiac inflammation was higher in vitamin D deficiency diet than high calorie diet,” the study researchers said.
Researchers found greater expression of genes involved in enlargement of cardiac muscles.
These findings were confirmed when scientists measured heart wall thicknesses, chamber internal diameters and contracting capacity of heart. Left ventricular posterior wall thickness was found to be increased in rats with vitamin D deficiency.
This happens when cardiac workload increases and turns pathological if no remedial measures are taken, finally progressing to heart failure.
In such conditions, the pumping action of the heart can no longer meet the metabolic demands of the body, explained the study.
“We have shown the link between vitamin D deficiency and cardiac dysfunction and how it may lead to heart failure. Vitamin D and its signalling modulate myocardial insulin sensitivity, the insufficiency of which induces impaired glucose utilisation, remodeling response, and heart failure,” explained Dr Sanjay Kumar Banerjee, senior scientist and lead researcher at the Faridabad-based Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), in an interview with India Science Wire.
As the NHS explained, from about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
However, some people people won’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
The Department of Health recommends that a person takes a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they:
- Aren’t often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
- Are in an institution like a care home
- Usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
It is important that a person doesn’t exceed the recommended dosage, said the NHS.
“Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart,” the health body warned.
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