Vitamin D Supplementation as a Possible Treatment for Heart Failure

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 9 No. 2 • April 2006

Vitamin D Supplementation as a Possible Treatment for Heart Failure

“Despite evidence-based advances in the treatment of CHF [congestive heart failure] over the past 15 years, large observational studies have shown no substantial changes in the prognosis of patients with heart failure. Survival rates 5 years after a first diagnosis of CHF are still only 35–40%.1 [Citations deleted from quote]

For this reason, the findings in a new study1 of the effects of vitamin D supplementation on patients with congestive heart failure are very encouraging. The researchers first note that patients with CHF have considerably lower concentrations of the vitamin D metabolite 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and calcitriol than do age-matched healthy controls, and a significant percentage of CHF patients have biochemical signs of hyperparathyroidism. The parathyroid hormone is regulated by vitamin D. Too much parathyroid hormone results in resorption (loss) of bone in order to get calcium. (Resorption of bone is one reason that deficiency in vitamin D is associated with periodontal disease.)

Sixty-one subjects were given 2000 IU of vitamin D plus 500 mg of calcium each day for 9 months, while the “placebo” group (62 subjects) received just the 500 mg of calcium daily for the same period. Ninety-three patients completed the study. The results showed that, compared with baseline levels, parathyroid hormone was significantly lower and the important anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 10 was significantly higher in the vitamin D-supplemented group after 9 months. Moreover, the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) increased in the group not receiving vitamin D, while TNF-alpha levels remained constant in the vitamin D-supplemented group. However, the survival rate did not differ significantly between the study groups (vitamin D + calcium or calcium alone) during the 15-month follow-up period.

The editorial accompanying this paper2 added some interesting points. The authors note that there were two clinical trials in CHF patients assessing the effect of vitamin D supplementation prior to the current study. “The study by Witte and Clark used vitamin D at 10 :g/d (400 IU/day), and this dose did not affect cytokine concentrations. Another study by Mahon et al. produced modest responses [presumably effects on cytokines] with 25 :g vitamin D/d (1000 IU/d).” Hence, as the editorial discusses, this new paper indicates that higher doses of vitamin D were needed than used in the earlier studies to achieve desired effects on cytokines in CHF. We suggest that, as there is no reason to believe that 2000 IU/d is optimized for effects on inflammatory processes (and the cytokines that promote or attenuate them), it would be reasonable to try a dose of 4000 IU/d in CHF patients; perhaps that dose would even provide a survival advantage.

Once again, we find potential treatment effects for a dietary supplement. The FDA’s stranglehold over information on treatment effects for vitamins and other natural products, and the obvious benefits to drug companies of maintaining their monopoly on treatment claims for anything, must be broken! Please help by going to and signing the petition supporting the passage of the Health Freedom Act (H.R. 4282), currently cosponsored by 20 Congresscritters; your support will be automatically e-mailed to your Congresscritter.


  1. Schleithoff et al. Vitamin D supplementation improves cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 83:754-9 (2006).
  2. Vieth and Kimball. Vitamin D in congestive heart failure. Am J Clin Nutr 83:731-2 (2006).

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