Vitamin D, a secosteroid hormone, affects multiple biological pathways via both genomic and nongenomic signalling. Several pathways have potential benefit to cardiovascular health, including effects on parathyroid hormone, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, vascular endothelial growth factor and cytokine production, as well as direct effects on endothelial cell function and myocyte calcium influx. Observational data supports a link between low vitamin D metabolite levels and cardiovascular health. Cross-sectional data shows associations between low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and stroke, myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart failure. Longitudinal data also suggests a relationship with incident hypertension and new cardiovascular events. However, these associations are potentially confounded by reverse causality and by the effects that other cardiovascular risk factors have on vitamin D metabolite levels. Intervention studies to date suggest a modest antihypertensive effect of vitamin D, no effect on serum lipids, a small positive effect on insulin resistance and fasting glucose, and equivocal actions on arterial stiffness and endothelial function. Analysis of cardiovascular event data collected from osteoporosis trials does not currently show a clear signal for reduced cardiovascular events with vitamin D supplementation, but results may be confounded by the coadministration of calcium, and by the secondary nature of the analyses. Despite mechanistic and observational data that suggest a protective role for vitamin D in cardiovascular disease, intervention studies to date are less promising. Large trials using cardiovascular events as a primary outcome are needed before vitamin D can be recommended as a therapy for cardiovascular disease.
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