Q. I get a health newsletter from a respected medical center. I noticed in the last issue that vitamin D could raise the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 20 percent. Any comments?

A. Several research reports have created considerable confusion. A year ago researchers reported that people taking calcium supplements were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those getting placebos (BMJ, online, July 29, 2010). Although this finding came from a meta-analysis of 11 studies involving over 12,000 people, many health professionals were skeptical and objected that vitamin D intake was not part of the analysis.

This year a new study in BMJ (online, April 19, 2011) confirmed the original finding with a twist. Even women taking vitamin D with their calcium had a higher risk (20 percent) of heart attack or stroke compared to placebo. We suspect that this is what your newsletter was reporting.

More recent research shows that vitamin D alone appears to protect men from heart attacks and strokes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online, June 8, 2011). For more on the benefits and risks of vitamin D you may wish to review our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. Excess calcium may be the culprit, while vitamin D may be neutral or protective for the heart.

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  1. dorothy

    my vitamin d number is 8 which is considered very low, what should I do

  2. dorothy

    i found out that my vitamin d is , and I am wondering should I be taking a prescription form of the supplement or is the over the counter good enough

  3. Sarah H.

    Go outside mid morning for 20 minutes and take a D supplement.
    I swear you won’t be deficient next time you’re tested.

  4. fbl

    With all the confounding factors I wouldn’t let that research affect my vitamin D decision. Man has received considerably more vitamin D from the sun for thousands of years until recently.
    The medications most of us take daily are more likely to do harm than the sun!

  5. Mary

    I was diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency. My doctor has me taking 5,000 IU of Vitamin D seven days a week for over three months now. Plus I take calcium citrate 500 mg with 500 IU of Vitamin D. With all the Vitamin D I take my levels still are not where she wants them to be. If I take that much Vitamin D and it’s not good for my heart, then I am doomed. I am also on metformin 500 mg a day, gemfibrozil 600 mg two times a day, Azor, Levothyroxin, Omerprazole, Claritin and Ferrous Sulfate for anemia.

  6. Marlis W.

    While I have been prescribed 2800 mg of Calcium per diem, I have trouble locating it without Vitamin D. I know we need vitamin D, but how much SHOULD I take just to have the catalyst effect needed? How much is too much per day of D? I am currently getting 1600 units daily… all just for a diagnosis of osteoporosis. ..and yes, am on Boniva and walks just for starters.
    Thank you for your incredibly beneficial radio program – you have helped many, many people. And for having the lovely timbre of voices which lend themselves so well to the medium. Appreciate your input, Marlis W.

  7. AJK

    Okay, this is very scary. I take a Cal-Mag supplement 2X daily and 2000 IUs of D3 once daily. I have joint problems and want to maintain good bone health. I have Diabetes II. I have read so many good things about taking D3. Help me to understand. Thank you.

  8. fbl

    Ummm, no mention of whether it was D2 or D3? Would that have a bearing?

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