Vitamin D may protect against peripheral artery disease, a buildup of fatty deposits that narrows leg arteries and can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine analyzed vitamin D levels of 4,839 adults and found that those with the lowest levels were significantly more likely to have PAD.
“Based on accumulating evidence about vitamin D and heart health, we can see that it’s important in reducing PAD,” says Boston University endocrinologist Michael Holick, M.D.
Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, which is also found in cod liver oil, salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, fortified milk, cereal, and juice.
Peripheral artery disease affects about 8 million Americans; more than half are over age 65. One symptom of the condition is pain or cramping in the legs, which often hampers the ability to walk. PAD is usually treated by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels via medication, diet, and exercise.
The Einstein researchers cautioned that a large clinical trial is needed for definitive evidence of how vitamin D might reduce the risk of PAD. They presented their findings at an American Heart Association meeting in April.