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Vitamin D supplementation can be tricky

March 15, 2010 |  1:34 pm

Vitamind Vitamin D may help prevent and treat heart disease, according to research released Monday from the American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta. But bringing vitamin D levels up to a "normal" range is a confusing issue, and there are many questions about what constitutes proper levels of the nutrient.

Experts suggest that vitamin D levels should be at least 30 nanograms per milliliter for optimal health, and some experts have suggested even higher levels are better. As many as three-quarters of American adults are thought to have deficient levels. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin from sunshine and is found in a limited number of foods. But many people prefer to take vitamin D supplements to boost blood levels.

In another study presented at the meeting Monday, researchers found that the effects of supplementation can vary depending on race. In particular, what is consider to be a low level in whites may actually be adequate in black people. The study, from researchers at Wake Forest University, found that higher levels of vitamin D in blacks was associated with more calcium in the arteries of the heart, which can increase the risk of heart attack.

"This is the opposite effect of what is felt to occur in white patients and shows that the accepted 'normal' range of vitamin D may be different between blacks and whites," the lead author of the study, Dr. Barry I. Freedman, said in a news release.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Anne Cusack  /  Los Angeles Times