Can vitamin D be a SOLE risk factor?

Here's a crazy question. It occurred to me as I was talking to Drew, a slender, active 54-year old dentist with no bad habits including no smoking.

Drew's heart scan score was 222. His lipoprotein analysis mostly revealed a lot of nothing, which is unusual. The only pattern that showed up was a modestly high LDL of 122 mg/dl with a very slight excess of small LDL. That's it. I would not be satisfied that these were sufficient cause for Drew's level of coronary plaque.

Drew's 25-OH-vitamin D3 level: 15 ng/ml--severe deficiency--despite the fact that his doctor had suggested that he take a vitamin D2 preparation. In other words, Drew had been profoundly deficient, probably for years.

Given the unimpressive cholesterol and lipoprotein values, could vitamin D serve as a trigger for coronary plaque all by itself?

I don't have an answer and know of nobody else who does. However, my opinion is that vitamin D is indeed a potent risk that can cause heart disease as a sole risk factor.

Perhaps it's another piece of circumstantial evidence suggesting that vitamin D has an enormous influence on health, including coronary plaque. Interestingly, the only other health problem Drew has had is prostate cancer, treated a few years ago with prostate removal and radiation. Good evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency escalates risk of prostate cancer substantially.

By the way, I've seen people taking vitamin D2 preparations, called "ergocalciferol," who are every bit as deficient as those who take no vitamin D at all. Avoid D2 or ergocalciferol preparations: they're worthless.

Comments (6) -

  • Regina W

    1/17/2007 10:20:00 PM |

    I'm probably way off here, but vitamin D derivatives are mainstays of topical therapy for chronic plaque psoriasis; I have to wonder if coronary plaque can form if vitamin D is deficient since vitamin D is involved with insulin regulation and insulin and hyperglycemia is also implicated in heart disease; often those with diabetes are found deficient in vitamin D, and they're a population most at risk for heart disease?  Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

  • Dr. Davis

    1/18/2007 1:08:00 AM |

    You're absolutely right. There is solid evidence that vitamin D deficiency increases diabetic patterns, including higher blood sugar and insulin levels. Whether this is part of the reason why vitamin D might exert benefits on coronary plaque remains uncertain. I suspect that there are many reasons, this being a major one.

  • Anonymous

    1/21/2007 1:46:00 PM |

    You may be interested in the following papers.
    The case against ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) as a vitamin supplement.
    Risk assessment for vitamin D
    Human serum 25-hydroxycholecalciferol response to extended oral dosing with cholecalciferol

  • Rich

    11/12/2007 9:17:00 PM |

    Dr. Prendergast has posted today an astonishing story of benefit from D3. The patient was switched to D2 in an effort to move to generic alternatives and he went rapidly downhill toward death. The mistake was discovered, the patient was switched back to D3 and he immediately recovered.
    Here's the link to the short video:

  • Dr. Davis

    11/12/2007 11:44:00 PM |

    Thanks for the heads-up, Rich. It is truly an astonishing story.

  • Neelesh

    12/5/2007 5:11:00 PM |

    Dr Davis!
       Sometime back I had posted a comment on your entry about wheat. And you had suggested that my Vitamin D3 levels might be low. Your diagnosis from 3000 miles away proved right! I had a 25-OH-D3 test and the value was less than 4ng/ml. I consulted my cardiologist and he brushed away the fact and asked me to drink more milk! I'm planning to switch doctors now.
       My copy of TYP reached me and I'm through cover to cover. The level of  details in the book is amazing and I've started correcting my lifestyle, food habits and medicines(of course, after discussing with the doctor).
       Many doctors here prefer a CT angiogram to a heart scan. My doctor was unable to give a good reason for why I should not have a heart scan but a CT angiogram. ("You are too young to have a heart scan"). So the situation here in India is no better.
      Many thanks!