Does Vitamin D lower heart risk? Depends on which news story you read!

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WebMD headline: “Vitamin D linked to lower heart risk.”


Reuters headline: “Calcium, Vitamin D pills don’t help heart.”

photo.jpg Same study. Quite different stories.

Look at how the evidence was analyzed differently.


“Researchers found six studies (five of which involved people on dialysis and one which included the general population) showed a consistent reduction in heart-related deaths among people who took vitamin D supplements. But four studies of initially healthy individuals found no differences in development of heart disease between those who received calcium supplements and those who did not.

A second analysis of eight studies showed a slight, but statistically insignificant 10% reduction in heart disease risk among those who took moderate to high doses of vitamin D supplements.”


“Some studies did show that vitamin D supplements cut the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. However, most of these involved patients with severe kidney disease who were on dialysis, a vast difference from healthy individuals, (the senior author) noted.

The remaining studies failed to show any meaningful benefits of vitamin D, calcium, or a combination of the two.”

The WebMD piece seemed to keep trying to make the case for there being some heart benefit from vitamin D when that isn’t what the results they presented indicate. No matter how you cut it, the evidence in favor of vitamin D having heart benefit is not robust, so how did they decide on the definitive headline, “Vitamin D linked to lower heart risk”?

The Reuters story helped people understand that more vitamins isn’t necessarily better – with the editorial writer’s quote, “We’ve learned in the past that things can go really, really wrong” when people start taking vitamin pills.

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March 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Vitamin D is the new Vitamin C and E!
We went through the exact same thing about 10 years ago. Large observational studies, some lab science, and late-night television made people optimistic that Vit C and E (antioxidants!) would prevent heart disease. Multiple large RCTs shot them down, most doctors learned, some patients did. Move 1 letter over in the alphabet, repeat process.
The funniest part is that once the vitamin D trials come out, you know what the next miracle will be, vitamin B!. (B12, seriously. Just go one letter over.)