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A Simple Way to Keep Your Heart Healthy While Losing Weight

Vitamin D supplements may provide a simple way to boost heart health during weight loss without affecting the amount of pounds lost, according to a new study.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was published in the April 2009 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

German researchers recruited 200 otherwise healthy overweight men and women between 18 and 80 years of age for the study.

The participants took part in a weight-loss program for one year and were given a supplement containing 83mg of vitamin D or a placebo.

At the end of the study, blood levels of vitamin D increased by 55 nmol/L (90%) in the vitamin D group compared to only 12 nmol/L (36%) for the placebo group.

The researchers also observed a 26% decrease in levels of parathyroid hormone, a new risk marker for cardiovascular disease.  There was only a 19% reduction in this hormone for the placebo group.

Furthermore, the vitamin D group saw a 13.5% decrease in triglycerides levels (another risk factor for cardiovascular disease) whereas the placebo group saw a 3% increase.

Finally, levels of a marker of inflammation called TNF-alpha decreased by 10.2% for the vitamin D group compared to only 3.2% in the placebo group.

The vitamin D group did, however, see an average increase in LDL cholesterol of 5.2%.

Most people are aware of the bone health benefits of vitamin D but few people know that the vitamin can also help lower blood pressure, increase calcium absorption, stimulate the immune system, regulate cell growth and protect against certain cancers.

Getting plenty of sun is one way to increase vitamin D levels, but as you grow older, your skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin. Increased exposure also increases the risk of skin cancer.

A safer alternative is trying a high quality supplement or eating more foods fortified with vitamin D.  Fish, milk products and many cereals either contain vitamin D naturally, or are fortified with the vitamin.

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