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RNS: Vitamin D, June 2008

TIME: 2:51


U-M Health Minute: Today’s top health issues and medical research

Vitamin D findings point to new treatment for heart failure
Animal study confirms vitamin’s essential role in heart health, shows enlarged heart and other heart failure symptoms can be prevented

Suggested lead:  New research from the University of Michigan Health System reveals that vitamin D compounds offer great promise for treating heart failure and stopping its fatal progression. Here’s Andi McDonnell with more.

Strong bones, a healthy immune system, protection against some types of cancer: Recent studies suggest there’s yet another item for the expanding list of vitamin D benefits. Vitamin D, also know as “the sunshine vitamin,” keeps the heart fit for life’s demands.

University of Michigan pharmacologist Dr. Robert U. Simpson (Ph.D), explains…

“Vitamin D acts like a tranquilizer to the heart. The progression of heart failure is kind of like in inflammation.  The heart is trying to work harder and harder and it’s compensating for the problems that are present. This can ultimately lead to heart failure where, in fact, the heart has no more reserve and cannot reach the demands of the body’s organs. What vitamin D seems to do is tranquilize(s) the heart and allows it to maintain normal profusion of the organs; it inhibits the stimulation to grow larger and it decreases the scaring that’s associated with heart failure.”

In studies in rats, Simpson and his team report the first concrete evidence that treatment with activated vitamin D can protect against heart failure. Their results appear in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.

Taking vitamin D supplements and, for many people, getting sun exposure in safe ways, are good options for people who want to keep their hearts healthy. But people with heart failure or at risk of heart failure will likely need a drug made of a compound or analog of vitamin D that will more powerfully produce vitamin D’s effects in the heart if they are to see improvement in their symptoms. Simpson tells us...

“Vitamin D that you would get at your local drug store is useful for treating vitamin D deficiency and that is important but it doesn’t relate to our research. We know that vitamin D deficiency can result in cardiovascular disease, but the kind of therapeutic that we’re interested in developing is much more potent than vitamin D and would be effective even in an individual who has normal vitamin D.”

Vitamin D analogs already are on the market for some conditions. These compounds, however, tend to increase blood calcium to undesirable levels. Simpson’s lab is conducting studies of a specific analog which may be less toxic, so efforts to develop a vitamin D-based drug to treat heart failure are moving a step closer to initial trials in people.

Andi McDonnell, U-M Health System News

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