Following a five-year research project, a team of scientists has found that vitamin D3 can be beneficial to patients with chronic heart failure. The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology 65th Annual Scientific Session & Expo in Chicago, USA.
Scientists from the University of Leeds, UK, have found that taking a vitamin D supplement can improve the pumping action of the heart in patients with heart muscle weakness. The majority of such patients are aged 75 and over and produce less vitamin D naturally from exposure to sunlight than younger people.
The team studied 160 patients who were already following treatments for heart failure, such as beta-blockers (which regulate heart rate), ACE-inhibitors (which improve heart function and keep blood pressure down) and pacemakers.
The study found that in the 80 patients who took vitamin D3 every day for a year, the heart's pumping function increased from 26% to 34%. Those who took a placebo saw no improvement in heart function. Note that the patients were given non-calcium based supplements to avoid further complications.
The cardiologists evaluated heart function by measuring what's known as the ejection fraction -- the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each heartbeat. For a healthy person, this is usually between 60% and 70%. For patients in the study, the average ejection fraction was 26%.
In conclusion, the researchers consider that heart failure patients may be able to start taking a vitamin D3 supplement on a regular basis. This may reduce the need for fitting implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) in certain patients. This costly operation implants a device that detects irregular heart rhythms and shocks the heart to restore a normal rhythm.
Heart failure affects 23 million people worldwide and more than half of sufferers are aged 75 or older.
Natural sources of vitamin D include eggs, dairy products, oily fish (sardines, mackerel), calf's liver and cod liver oil.