Taking vitamin D supplements can improve exercise performance and lower the risk of heart disease, according to the findings of a preliminary study by UK researchers.
Previous studies have suggested that vitamin D can block the action of enzyme 11-βHSD1, which is needed to make the “stress hormone” cortisol, said the researchers.
“Our pilot study suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can improve fitness levels and lower cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure”
Raquel Revuelta Iniesta
High levels of cortisol may raise blood pressure by restricting arteries, narrowing blood vessels and stimulating the kidneys to retain water. As Vitamin D may reduce circulating levels of cortisol, it could theoretically improve exercise performance and lower cardiovascular risk factors.
In their study, the researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh gave 13 healthy adults matched by age and weight 50μg of vitamin D per day or a placebo over a period of two weeks.
Adults supplementing with vitamin D had lower blood pressure compared to those given a placebo, as well as having lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their urine.
A fitness test found that the group taking vitamin D could cycle 6.5km in 20 minutes, compared to just 5km at the start of the experiment.
Despite cycling 30% further in the same time, the group taking vitamin D supplements also showed lower signs of physical exertion.
Study co-author Dr Raquel Revuelta Iniesta said: “Our pilot study suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can improve fitness levels and lower cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure.
“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,” she added.
The findings were presented today at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Edinburgh.