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.”

OR

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.

WebMD:

“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.”

Reuters:

“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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j

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.)