The benefits of vitamin D aren’t limited to improving bone health and fighting disease—the “sunshine vitamin” has now been shown to help restore damage to heart patients’ cardiovascular systems, according to research published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine this week.
Tadeusz Malinski, PhD, and a pair of graduate students at Ohio University (OU) found that the vitamin can, in addition to its already-established perks, restore damage to the cardiovascular system caused by hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis and other illnesses.
“Generally, vitamin D3 is associated with the bones,” Malinski said in a release from OU. “However, in recent years in clinical settings, people recognize that many patients who have a heart attack will have a deficiency of D3. It doesn’t mean that the deficiency caused the heart attack, but it increased the risk of heart attack.”
Malinski’s team used nanosensors—each of which was around 1,000 times smaller in diameter than a single human hair—to track the impacts of D3 on single endothelial cells, an essential component of the cardiovascular system.
The study was conducted at OU, according to the release, in both white and black patients. Results didn’t vary between races.
The researchers found vitamin D3 to be a powerful stimulator of nitric oxide, which is key in regulating blood flow and preventing the formation of clots. The vitamin also appeared to significantly reduce the level of oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system.
“There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged, and vitamin D3 can do it,” Malinski said. “This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system.”
Malinski and colleagues modeled the effects of vitamin D in a cellular model of hypertension, but Malinski said their evidence has far greater implications than what they found in the lab. Not only could the vitamin be of clinical importance in restoring dysfunctional cardiac endothelium after heart attacks, but it could also help to rebuild systems damaged by hypovolemia, vasculopathy, capillary endothelium after brain ischemia, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Doses higher than what’s currently recommended to maintain bone health could be highly effective in treating these conditions, Malinski said, and it’s an option that won’t cost the medical industry millions.
“We don’t need to develop a new drug,” he said. “We already have it.”