Vitamin D supplements may improve exercise performance and reduce the risk of heart disease, according to findings of a preliminary study presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference. 

Vitamin D plays a role in controlling calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, and is important in the formation of bones and teeth. Consumption of oily fish and eggs as well as exposing skin to ultraviolet B rays in sunlight are some ways people get vitamin D. Earlier studies suggested that vitamin D can antagonize 11-βHSD1, an enzyme needed to make cortisol. High levels of cortisol can raise blood pressure by restricting arteries, narrowing blood vessels, and signaling the kidneys to retain water. By reducing the level of circulating cortisol, “it could theoretically improve exercise performance and lower cardiovascular risk factors,” stated researchers from the Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

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Healthy adults (n=13) were given either 50mcg of vitamin D per day or a placebo over 2 weeks. Those with vitamin D supplementation showed lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol in their urine vs. those given placebo. Also, adults who took vitamin D were able to cycle 6.5km in 20 minutes in a fitness test vs. 5km at study initiation. The same group also showed lower signs of physical exertion. findings suggest that vitamin D supplements can improve fitness levels and lower cardiovascular risk factors. “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,” stated Dr. Raquel Revuelta Iniesta, the study’s co-author. 

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