Low vitamin D levels linked to subclinical atherosclerosis

In recent epidemiological studies, 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency has been identified as a novel cardiovascular risk factor.  However, the mechanisms by which vitamin D deficiency affect cardiovascular risk remain unclear.

To investigate this relationship further, Carrelli et al. examined data from 203 adults in the Northern Manhattan Study (mean age 68; range 50-93 years).  All participants had measurements of calcium, phosphorus, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, and parathyroid hormone, and in addition underwent carotid ultrasound to assess intima-media thickness.  After adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, an association was found between the presence of plaque in the carotid artery and both serum phosphorus and calcium-phosphorus product.  In addition, 25-hydroxyvitamin D was inversely associated with both intima-media thickness and maximal carotid plaque thickness.  However, calcium, parathyroid hormone, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels were not associated with any carotid measures.

Conclusions:

In this community study, low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were associated with increased intima-media thickness and maximal carotid plaque thickness.  Further work is required to determine the optimum levels of vitamin D for vascular health.

  • Carrelli AL, Walker MD, Lowe H et al.  Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Subclinical Carotid Atherosclerosis.  Stroke 2011;;42:2240-2245.