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Vitamin D supplements could prevent heart attacks, study finds

The D-Health Trial, the second-largest of its kind, aimed to explore whether vitamin D supplementation could mitigate the risk of cardiovascular events. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

A major clinical trial conducted by QIMR Berghofer, known as the D-Health Trial, suggests that vitamin D supplements could potentially lower the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks in individuals aged over 60.

Lead author and epidemiologist Professor Rachel Neale, who leads QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Aetiology & Prevention Group, highlighted the importance of these findings, which were published in The BMJ journal.


The D-Health Trial, the second-largest of its kind, aimed to explore whether vitamin D supplementation could mitigate the risk of cardiovascular events. Previous studies did not conclusively support the benefits of such supplementation, but the D-Health Trial results challenge this notion.

Professor Rachel Neale heads QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Aetiology & Prevention Group. (CREDIT: QIMR Berghofer)

Professor Neale stressed that while the findings are promising, further investigation is necessary, especially for individuals concurrently using medications for heart conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.


Spanning from 2014 to 2020, the D-Health Trial enlisted over 21,000 Australians aged between 60 and 84. Participants were randomly assigned to either receive monthly vitamin D supplements or a placebo for up to five years.

The trial sought to elucidate vitamin D's potential role in preventing various diseases, including cardiovascular disease, which stands as a leading cause of death worldwide, with its prevalence expected to rise due to aging populations and increased chronic illnesses.


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Among the participants, those receiving vitamin D experienced a slightly lower rate of major cardiovascular events compared to the placebo group. Notably, the vitamin D group exhibited a 9 percent reduction in major cardiovascular events and a 19 percent decrease in heart attacks.

Moreover, individuals using statins or other cardiovascular drugs at the study's outset seemed to derive a stronger benefit from vitamin D supplementation, although the reasons for this remain uncertain.


Professor Neale cautioned that while these findings are intriguing, they do not reach statistical significance. Nevertheless, the observed benefits, even among participants who were not initially deficient in vitamin D, underscore the need for further investigation into the potential cardiovascular benefits of supplementation.

Cause specific cumulative incidence of major cardiovascular events according to randomisation group and time since randomisation. Curves estimated using Aalen-Johansen methods, treating death without previous major cardiovascular event as a competing risk. (CREDIT: The BMJ journal)

The research team underscored the importance of considering the costs associated with supplements, emphasizing that the evidence supporting vitamin D's role in reducing cardiovascular risk remains inconclusive. Therefore, consumers, particularly those over 60 with preexisting conditions, should consult with their healthcare providers before initiating supplementation.


The D-Health Trial, which utilized a relatively high dose of vitamin D (60,000 IU per month), retained approximately 80 percent of participants over five years. To ensure comprehensive data collection, national datasets were leveraged to track cardiovascular events throughout the trial period.

Effect of vitamin D supplementation on incidence of major cardiovascular events for all participants and by selected baseline characteristics. Hazard ratios (vitamin D v placebo) were estimated using flexible parametric survival models. (CREDIT: The BMJ journal)

In acknowledging the invaluable contribution of over 21,000 Australians who participated in the D-Health Trial, the investigator team stressed the significance of their involvement in advancing scientific understanding in this crucial area of research.


The results of the trial have been published in The BMJ – British Medical Journal and can be accessed at this link with DOI 10.1136/bmj-2023-075230

For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by University of Exeter. Content may be edited for style and length.


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