Effects of vitamin D for heart failure far from ‘stunning’

“Vitamin D can produce ‘amazing’ improvements in heart function,” claims The Independent about the results of a recent study, while BBC News reported suggestions the results were “stunning”.

However, the study in question, which involved giving people with heart failure vitamin D supplements, did not result in better exercise capability.


 

Heart failure is caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. Your heart doesn’t stop, but fails to work properly, causing symptoms of breathlessness, tiredness and ankle swelling.

Many people with the condition are also vitamin D deficient, prompting Leeds-based researchers to study whether vitamin D supplements might help the condition.

The study involved 229 participants who were randomised to receive either a daily high-dose vitamin D supplement for a year or a placebo.

People in the vitamin D group showed encouraging improvements in measures of left ventricular function, a gauge of how well blood is pumped from the heart with each heartbeat.

But the study was unable to show any vitamin D-related improvements in the main symptoms of heart failure, and showed no improvement in walking distance.

Given that backdrop, it’s a stretch to describe the hearts as “healed” – or call the results “stunning”. Still, these are early days. Larger and longer-term studies may find out whether these heart changes improve the main symptoms of the condition over time.

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