Elderly man sunbathing
Sunbathing is a good way of obtaining Vitamin D but a daily dose of supplement can boost health Reuters

A daily dose of Vitamin D supplement has the potential to help to keep heart diseases at bay, says research from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.Dairy products and fish provide some amount of the vitamin, but dietary intake alone may not be enough.

It has been known that the vitamin that is also a hormone blocks the enzyme 11-βHSD1 which produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol in turn blocks arteries and raises blood pressure, besides causing kidneys to retain water. By increasing Vitamin D intake, cortisol levels are controlled and exercise performance improved to lower cardiovascular risk.

The researchers gave 13 healthy adults 50μg of Vitamin D per day or a placebo over a period of two weeks. Those who supplemented with Vitamin D had lower blood pressure compared to those given a placebo, as well as having lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their urine.

The group taking Vitamin D could cycle 6.5km in 20 minutes, compared to just 5km at the start of the experiment, and not exhibit signs of exertion. "Our pilot study suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can improve fitness levels and lower cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure," said Dr Raquel Revuelta Iniesta, co-author of the study. "Our next step is to perform a larger clinical trial for a longer period of time in both healthy individuals and large groups of athletes such as cyclists or long-distance runners."

Vitamin D is required for the regulation of minerals like calcium and phosphorus and plays an important role in forming and maintaining bone structure. "Vitamin D deficiency is a silent syndrome linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and a higher risk for certain cancers", said lead author of the study Dr Emad Al-Dujaili. "Our study adds to the body of evidence showing the importance of tackling this widespread problem."

In England alone, around 10 million people are suspected of having low Vitamin D levels. Most Vitamin D – 80% to 90% of what the body gets – is obtained through exposure to sunlight, according to WebMD. As people with darker skin are less efficient at using sunlight to make Vitamin D, those with dark skins are likely to be more deficient.

Earlier studies have shown direct correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline.
Low levels of the vitamin in blood increases mortality and risk of cancer, according to a large-scale population study conducted by the University of Copenhagen.

A word of caution: it is best to use supplements after consulting a doctor as high doses of the vitamin can result in adverse impacts.