Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a medical condition wherein arteries in the lower extremities – the legs – become narrow or clogged up with fatty deposits. This results in reduced flow to the legs.
A recent study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City on 4839 American adults show that people with higher levels of vitamin D are less likely to have PAD than those with lower levels of the vitamin
According to head researcher Dr. Michal Melamed
“After adjusting for age, sex, race and co-existing health problems, we found adults in the lowest vitamin D group had a 64 percent higher prevalence of PAD compared to those with the highest vitamin D levels”. “For each 10 ng/mL lower vitamin D level, there was a 29 percent higher risk of peripheral arterial disease.”
It is not clear whether vitamin D has protective properties against PAD. The researchers emphasize that further studies are needed to investigate the mechanisms behind the link between Vitamin D and PAD.
More on PAD
According to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2008 Update, PAD affects about 8 million Americans and is associated with a significant number of cases of disability and death. Risk factors for PAD include high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and high blood pressure and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein.
More on Vitamin D
Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin. It is synthesized by our body when our skin is exposed to the sun. It is therefore surprising that vitamin D deficiency is becoming a global problem and has been linked to many diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis.
Although Vitamin D supplements are available over-the-counter, AHA doesn’t recommend taking them. Vitamin supplements in general have become popular in recent years. However, they may actually be linked to health risks, according to recent studies. Our nutritional requirements are best met by natural sources – fresh fruit, vegetables, cereals, nuts, fish, and other fresh food products.
The best and the cheapest source of vitamin D is still the sun. It can also be found in natural food such as salmon, sardines, and cod liver oil. Milk in the US is fortified with vitamin D but not in most European countries.
The study concludes:
- Low levels of vitamin D were associated with an increased prevalence of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in a study that analyzed data from a national survey.
- The researchers feel this needs further study and do not recommend people start taking vitamin D supplements unless they are recommended by their doctors.
- The American Heart Association recommends that healthy people get adequate nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation, rather than by taking supplements.