Vitamin D Deficiency in Kids may Increase Heart Risk

Children and teens with low vitamin D levels may grow up to be hard-hearted adults – literally. A new study says that not getting enough of this tenacious D is a risk factor for artery hardening, which in turn has been linked with heart disease. “Our results showed an association between low 25-OH vitamin D levels in childhood and increased occurrence of subclinical atherosclerosis in adulthood,” lead researcher Markus Juonala, specialist in internal medicine and endocrinology the University of Turku Finland said in a press release. “The association was independent of conventional cardiovascular risk factors including cerium lipids, blood pressure, smoking, diet, physical activity, obesity indices and socioeconomic status.”

Over 2,100 Finns participated in the study, which was published on February 10th in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Their levels of vitamin D were measured at ages 3-18 from stored serum, and then underwent ultrasounds to check for carotid intima-thickness (IMT) at ages 30-45. Those adults who were at an increased risk of artery hardening also had the lowest levels of vitamin D during childhood. The relationship between childhood vitamin D levels and adult atherosclerosis was established after other risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking, poor eating, lack of exercise and obesity were accounted for, but the study didn’t prove that one caused the other. Moreover, the results did not directly associate vitamin D levels with stroke and heart disease.

Previous research had found a link between low vitamin D and higher stroke and heart attack risk, but “more research is needed to investigate whether low vitamin D levels have a causal role in the development increased carotid artery thickness,” Juonala said. “Nevertheless, our observations highlight the importance of providing children with a diet that includes sufficient vitamin D. There’s a lot of data showing that vitamin D insufficiency is bad for health. We found evidence that it is connected to artery health as well.”

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