Vitamin D may help prevent heart failure, researchers from University of Michigan have revealed.
Lead researcher Robert U. Simpson, pharmacologist from University of Michigan calls the sunshine vitamin "the heart tranquilizer" as it can bring down a person's heart attack risk.
The study has found that treatments with activated vitamin D prevented heart muscle cells from growing bigger - the condition, called hypertrophy, in which the heart becomes enlarged and overworked in people with heart failure.
The treatments prevented heart muscle cells from the over-stimulation and increased contractions associated with the progression of heart failure.
"Heart failure will progress despite the best medications. We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart," said Simpson.
For the study, the researchers measured the effects of activated Vitamin D in rats predisposed to develop human-like heart failure.
They were given a normal diet or a high-salt diet, compared to control group rats given either of the same two diets, but no vitamin D treatment.
The rats on the high-salt diet, comparable to the fast food that many humans feast on, quickly revealed the difference vitamin D could make.
After 13 weeks, they found that the heart failure-prone rats on the high-salt diet that were given the calcitriol treatment had significantly lower levels of several key indicators of heart failure than the untreated high-salt diet rats.
The treated rats had lower heart weight. Also, the left ventricles of the treated rats' hearts were smaller and their hearts worked less for each beat while blood pressure was maintained, indicating that their heart function did not deteriorate as it did in the untreated rats.
Decreased heart weight, meaning that enlargement was not occurring, also showed up in the treated rats fed a normal diet, compared to their untreated counterparts.
Sunlight causes the skin to make activated vitamin D. People also get vitamin D from certain foods and vitamin D supplements. Taking vitamin D supplements and for many people, getting sun exposure in safe ways, are certainly good options for people who want to keep their hearts healthy.
The results appear in the July issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.