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Food, Health, and Eco-news
Letters: Clarifying the vitamin D–calcium cardiac connection

by Craig Weatherby

The last issue of Vital Choices included a report titled “Vitamin D May Reduce Heart and Diabetes Risks.”

That article included the following sidebar, in which we noted some phenomena related to widespread vitamin D deficiencies that might help explain the sunshine vitamin's apparent ability to reduce heart disease risks.

Vitamin D-calcium link may explain cardiac benefits

Women with osteoporosis tend to have more calcium in the walls of their arteries and they run a greater risk of cardiac death than women with strong, dense bones.

Two bad things happen when blood levels of vitamin D are low:

  • Bones cannot absorb sufficient calcium.
  • Calcium accumulates in artery walls and promotes formation of dangerous fatty plaques.

The same processes that lead to calcium loss from bones may induce the accumulation of calcium in arteries, for unknown reasons.

As you'll see in the last line, we acknowledged ignorance of the possible reasons:

Soon, we received an email from Dr. Peggy L. Manuel, in which she proposed two plausible explanations for the twin calcium-related phenomena described our sidebar.

Here's what Dr. Manuel wrote:


Just FYI from my point of view:

Women with osteoporosis have the connection with increased calcification along the blood vessels likely because their bones have been dissolving to maintain the calcium level in the bloodstream, since they were unable to absorb enough calcium from their diet due to an insufficiency of vitamin D. This effect is also linked to stiffer arteries and higher blood pressure.

The link between type 2 diabetes and insufficient vitamin D may be association rather than cause and effect, since most people who get diabetes type 2 are overweight, and vitamin D is stored in their fat cells, which is less available to them.

It takes about 3 times more vitamin D to get the same benefit in someone who is overweight. So, people who are overweight will have 3 times lower vitamin D in their bloodstream, given the same amount of vitamin D dietary or from sunshine.

Thanks for the great articles,

Peggy L. Manuel, M.D., FAAP

And we thank you, Dr. Manuel, for the enlightening communication!