A new report has revealed that Vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients may influence the risk and progression of cardiovascular disease.
"The prospect that macro- and micronutrients may play an important role in the appearance of diseases of the cardiovasculature and their progressive nature is both intriguing and provocative," according to the article's preface by Dr. Karl T. Weber.
The findings highlighted in the article were presented at the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation's (SSCI) Annual Scientific Session in New Orleans earlier this year.
Published in The American Journal of the Medical Sciences (AJMS), it says that several recent studies have identified low vitamin D levels as a common problem with many adverse health effects, including increased rates of cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Suzanne Judd, of University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Dr. Vin Tangpricha, of Emory University, say that people with vitamin D deficiency are at increased risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, and ischemic heart disease.
In patients who already have heart disease, low vitamin D may increase the risk of high blood pressure or sudden death, the researchers add.
Vitamin D deficiency may also help to explain the apparent relationship between osteoporosis-related fractures and heart failure, according to Dr. Syed H. Raza and colleagues.
Osteoporosis and heart failure are both common conditions in older adults and share several risk factors-including low vitamin D.
Pending further research to clarify this relationship, patients with heart failure need attention to their risks of osteoporosis and fractures.
Given that there is very little information on whether taking vitamin D supplements can avoid or reduce these risks, Dr. Rebecca B. Costello of the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements urges rigorous scientific studies to clarify the relationship between vitamin D and cardiovascular disease, as well as other chronic diseases.
As regards other nutrients, folic acid (vitamin B9) reduces levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which affects cardiovascular risk, according to Dr. Lydia A. Bazzano of Tulane University.
Though studies have found that taking folic acid to reduce homocysteine does not lower cardiovascular risk in adults, taking folic acid during pregnancy does appear to reduce the risk of congenital heart defects.
Dr. Jay H. Kramer of George Washington University says that low levels of magnesium may lead to a "cascade" of harmful inflammation-promoting events. This may lead to disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), increasing vulnerability to injury from other forms of stress.
Especially with the high rate of magnesium deficiency in the population, antioxidants and other medications-in addition to magnesium supplements-might help in reducing cardiovascular disease.
Despite the tantalizing new evidence, "The role of nutrition in the causation, prevention, and treatment of cardiovascular diseases is largely unexplored," Dr. Weber concludes.
"Investigator-initiated, hypothesis-driven research conducted in a mode of discovery by a multidisciplinary team of basic and clinical scientists will undoubtedly open new frontiers and pave the way by identifying simple remedies that could advance the practice of medicine," Dr. Weber writes.