The role of vitamin D deficiency in cardiovascular disease: where do we stand in 2013?
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- Pilz, S., Gaksch, M., O’Hartaigh, B. et al. Arch Toxicol (2013) 87: 2083. doi:10.1007/s00204-013-1152-z
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The high worldwide prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is largely the result of low sunlight exposure with subsequently limited cutaneous vitamin D production. Classic manifestations of vitamin D deficiency are linked to disturbances in bone and mineral metabolism, but the identification of the vitamin D receptor in almost every human cell suggests a broader role of vitamin D for overall and cardiovascular health. The various cardiovascular protective actions of vitamin D such as anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive effects including renin suppression as well as protection against atherosclerosis and heart diseases are well defined in previous experimental studies. In line with this, large epidemiological studies have highlighted vitamin D deficiency as a marker of cardiovascular risk. However, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on vitamin D have largely failed to show its beneficial effects on cardiovascular diseases and its conventional risk factors. While most prior vitamin D RCTs were not designed to assess cardiovascular outcomes, some large RCTs have been initiated to evaluate the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation on cardiovascular events in the general population. When considering the history of previous disappointing vitamin RCTs in general populations, more emphasis should be placed on RCTs among severely vitamin D-deficient populations who would most likely benefit from vitamin D treatment. At present, vitamin D deficiency can only be considered a cardiovascular risk marker, as vitamin D supplementation with doses recommended for osteoporosis treatment is neither proven to be beneficial nor harmful in cardiovascular diseases.