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Feb 11, 2015 11:44 PM EST

Vitamin D Deficiency In Childhood May Up Heart Risk Later In Life

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Adults who had low levels of vitamin D in their childhood may have a higher risk of heart issues in adulthood, according to a recent study Fox News reported.

Low levels of vitamin D have previously been shown to be related to increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are highly prevalent among children worldwide, and this study examined the relationship between low childhood vitamin D levels and adult increased carotid intima-thickness (IMT), a marker of structural atherosclerosis, which correlates with cardiovascular risk factors, and predicts cardiovascular events.

"Our results showed an association between low 25-OH vitamin D levels in childhood and increased occurrence of subclinical atherosclerosis in adulthood," Markus Juonala, one of the study authors, said in a statement. "The association was independent of conventional cardiovascular risk factors including serum lipids, blood pressure, smoking, diet, physical activity, obesity indices and socioeconomic status."

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 2,000 subjects from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, between the ages of 3 and 18 at baseline. Subjects were re-examined at age 30 to 45 years. Childhood levels of vitamin D were measured from stored serum. Carotid IMT was measured on the posterior wall of the left carotid artery using ultrasound technology. Study subjects with 25-OH vitamin D levels in the lowest quartile in childhood had a significantly higher prevalence of high-risk IMT as adults (21.9 vs. 12.7 percent).

"More research is needed to investigate whether low vitamin D levels have a causal role in the development increased carotid artery thickness," Juonala said. "Nevertheless, our observations highlight the importance of providing children with a diet that includes sufficient vitamin D."

The findings are detailed in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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