According to a new study carried out at Johns Hopkins University, a combination of exercise and sufficient vitamin D levels may reduce the risk of serious heart problems more than either one alone.
The study was published recently in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The research included an analysis of data spanning 20 years from more than 10,000 U.S. adults. It found that those who got the recommended amounts of exercise and had adequate vitamin D levels had a 23 percent lower risk of heart attack or stroke. What’s more, those who met physical activity targets but were deficient in vitamin did not have a lower risk.
The combined benefit of having adequate vitamin D and exercise levels was better than either factor alone. While the observational study does not prove cause and effect, it does support the idea that adequate exercise and vitamin D are signs of good health, the researchers said. Vitamin D is produced when the body is exposed to sunlight and is found in some foods.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation the following are ways to get vitamin D:
- A diet rich in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna.
- Other food sources of the vitamin include egg yolks, beef, liver and cheese.
- Some beverages are fortified with the vitamin, such as orange juice and milk.
- Cod liver oil has more than twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin D.
- Consider a vitamin D supplement.
"In our study, both failure to meet the recommended physical activity levels and having vitamin D deficiency were very common," study co-author Dr. Erin Michos said the press release sent out by Johns Hopkins University.
"The bottom line is we need to encourage people to move more in the name of heart health," Michos added.
Dr. Michos is associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins.
Though the study found that the more people exercised, the higher their vitamin D levels, this was true for whites but not for blacks, the researchers said. Michos said people with darker skin may produce vitamin D less efficiently because their skin pigments act as a natural sunscreen.
The researchers caution that their study is an observational one and that long-term, carefully controlled clinical trials would be needed to establish evidence for cause and effect. Nevertheless, the study does support the notion that exposure to the “sunshine” vitamin D and exercise are indicators of good health.
Experts recommend a daily intake of 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D up to age 70. Men and women over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily, which also can be obtained from supplements or vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk. The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU per day for adults. However, sometimes doctors prescribe higher doses for people who are deficient in vitamin D.
A recent survey taken by Consumer Reports showed that of over 9,505 people who use dietary supplements, the most popular dietary supplement today is vitamin D. And with this latest news on vitamin D and exercise, the “sunshine vitamin” will probably continue to rank as #1.