A new study suggests that vitamin D may help people with diseased hearts.
A trial on 163 heart failure patients found supplements of vitamin D, which is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight, improved their hearts’ ability to pump blood around the body.
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals team, who presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, described the results as “stunning”.
Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and teeth and may have important health benefits throughout the body but many people are deficient.
Patients were given either a 100 microgram vitamin D tablet or a sugar pill placebo each day for a year.
Researchers measured the impact on heart failure – a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump blood properly.
The key measure was the ejection fraction, the amount of blood pumped out of the chambers of the heart with each beat.
In a healthy adult the figure is between 60% and 70%, but only a quarter of the blood in the heart was being successfully pumped out in the heart failure patients.
In those taking the vitamin pills, the ejection fraction increased from 26% to 34%.
The study also showed the patients hearts became smaller – a suggestion they are becoming more powerful and efficient.
It is also not clear exactly how vitamin D is improving heart function, but it is thought every cell in the body responds to the vitamin.
Most vitamin D comes from sunlight, although it is also found in oily fish, eggs and is added to some foods such as breakfast cereals.