New trial finds vitamin D3 improves heart function

Monday 4th April 2016

A daily dose of vitamin D3 improves heart function in people with chronic heart failure, a trial carried out at the NIHR Leeds Clinical Research Facility has found.

The VINDICATE study involved more than 160 patients who were already being treated for their heart failure at Leeds Teaching Hospitals using proven treatments including beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors and pacemakers.

Participants took either vitamin D3 or a dummy (placebo) tablet for one year. Those patients who took vitamin D3 experienced an improvement in heart function which was not seen in those who took a placebo.

The changes in heart function were assessed through an ultrasound scan of the heart (known as an echocardiogram) which measures how much blood pumps from the heart with each heartbeat, known as ejection fraction.

The ejection fraction of a healthy person is usually between 60% and 70%. In heart failure patients, the ejection fraction is often significantly impaired – in the patients enrolled into the VINDICATE study the average ejection fraction was 26%.

In the 80 patients who took Vitamin D3, the heart’s pumping function improved from 26% to 34%. In the others, who took placebo, there was no change in cardiac function.

Another key aspect of this study is that the researchers avoided using a calcium-based supplement, as calcium can cause further problems for heart failure patients.

The results of the VINDICATE study were presented at the American College of Cardiology 65th Annual Scientific Session & Expo in Chicago on April 4.

Dr Klaus Witte, from the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine and Consultant Cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, led the study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Dr Witte said:

“This is a significant breakthrough for patients. It is the first evidence that vitamin D3 can improve heart function of people with heart muscle weakness – known as heart failure. These findings could make a significant difference to the care of heart failure patients.”

Heart failure affects about 900,000 people in the UK and more than 23 million worldwide.

The condition can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in older people – more than half of all people globally with heart failure are over the age of 75. Heart failure patients are often deficient in vitamin D3 because older people make less vitamin D3 in response to sunlight than younger people.