I know that nowadays, so many of us are confused about whether supplements and vitamins are truly good for us or not. With so many studies out there, sometimes it is just plain irritatingly confusing.
As an integrative medicine physician at my clinic in San Jose, CA, I have to tell you that from what I’ve seen in my clinic, supplements sure do get a bad reputation sometimes. Some of the studies that are done for supplements are simply done poorly without controls or with dosages that you’d never use in real life or in versions of supplements that people can’t even get easily on the everyday marketplace.
Having said that, one vitamin seems to be getting good traction in research and typically is done in studies that are well-designed; and the winner is…Vitamin D!
Most physicians, even the most conventional of conventional doctors know about vitamin D and its benefits and will check labs for levels in their patients. So, the study about vitamin D and its benefit on arterial stiffness is yet another win for pro usage for this winsome vitamin in clinical practice.
What does arterial stiffness mean?
Stiff or rigid artery walls can be an independent predictor for cardiovascular-related diseases.
Since our heart health is obviously an important factor of our overall health, researchers took a look at 70 African-American overweight patients ranging in age from 13-45 and looked at how vitamin D can affect arterial stiffness over the course of 16 weeks.
What’s cool about this study is that not only did they do varying dosages of vitamin D compared to placebo to see its effects on arterial stiffness, but they did it in a population of patients who are known to be at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency due to darker skin absorbing less sunlight and have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease at earlier onset in life. So, the results of such a study is both clinically useful and impactful and can truly potentially change lives and help people avoid something deadly.
What they saw was that those patients taking 4000IU of vitamin D had a decrease of 10.4 percent in four months of arterial stiffness and 2000IU of vitamin D had 2 percent decrease. 600IU of vitamin D actually had a 1 percent increase in stiffness but the placebo group experienced a 2.3 percent increase in arterial stiffness over the timeframe so 600IU still helped but not as much.
Ironically, most doctors recommend the 800-1000IU vitamin D per day only generically across the board to their patients, but what we are learning more and more is that the lower dosage might not be enough…and this is another study that suggests that.
As a side note, there were no measurable differences in weight or blood pressure measurements over the 16-week study period.
I am always very excited to read about studies that support what basically feels like is common sense…if a vitamin level is deficient, repleting that for the body into a reasonable moderate level should be logically a good thing. This is a study that supports that common sense. And that makes me happy; But being a scientist, obviously I can’t assume that until we do more and more studies and so I cannot wait for more studies to be done so we can see if that bit of ‘common sense’ stays true. Overall, I believe that allowing our body to run efficiently with a healthy vegetable/plant-based diverse diet and making sure our nutrient levels are all in the moderately healthy range with regular moderate exercise is a good thing for people in general. But just remember that too much of a good thing, is a real thing. So don’t think overdoing it with supplements is a good thing, it’s not.
In regards to this study, I am elated to read it and I hope you are too for those of you with cardiovascular disease. But we do need larger studies and more of them to confirm findings.
As always, check with your physician before you start using any supplements and check with your doctor about safety of the dosages you want to use because there are always caveats to everything and you want to make sure you are safe to take what you want to take.
Anas Raed, Jigar Bhagatwala, Haidong Zhu, Norman K. Pollock, Samip J. Parikh, Ying Huang, Robyn Havens, Ishita Kotak, De-Huang Guo, Yanbin Dong. Dose responses of vitamin D3 supplementation on arterial stiffness in overweight African Americans with vitamin D deficiency: A placebo controlled randomized trial. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (12): e0188424 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188424