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High-dose vitamin D reduces heart attack risk

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Taking a high-dose vitamin D supplement every day reduces your risk of a heart attack and bypass surgery.

Researchers have discovered that people who take 60,000 IUs of the vitamin a month—which is three times the RDA (recommended daily allowance)—reduce their chances of a heart attack by around 20 percent.

They are also 11 percent less likely to need heart bypass surgery, say researchers from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland, Australia.

Although the risk reduction is quite low, the researchers estimate the results would be more emphatic if the participants had been from the sun-starved northern hemisphere.  Australians already get high doses of vitamin D from the year-long sunshine in their country.

They recruited 21,315 Australians who were between 60 and 84 years of age, who were either given 60,000 IUs of vitamin D supplements every month for five years or a placebo.  The vitamin’s RDA is just 600 IUs a day, or 18,000 IUs a month.

In the five years of the study, 1336 participants suffered a heart attack—699 in the placebo group, and 637 among those taking the vitamin—and 11 percent fewer people taking the vitamin needed bypass surgery.

Overall, the vitamin’s protective effect was small, the researchers say, although this may be because levels are already high among Australians.

High-dose vitamin D supplements also reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrythmia or heart flutter that can increase the chances of stroke, heart failure and death, a separate study has found.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recruited 2495 participants who were over 60 years of age, who were either given 1600 IUs of the vitamin a day—double the RDA—or 3200 IUs a day, or a placebo.

During the five years of the study, 190 participants were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation—76 in the placebo groups, 59 in the 1600 IUs group, which was around 27 percent less than the placebo group, and 55 in those taking 3200 IUs, 32 percent lower than placebo.

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BMJ, 2023; 381: e075230; doi: 10.1136/bmj-2023-075230 (Australian study); American Heart Journal, 2023; doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2023.05.024 (Finnish study)
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