We usually think of abnormal cholesterol and the health of our arteries as something we should worry about in middle or old age. However, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) begins in childhood. In some people, the disease progresses rapidly in their third decade of life. In others, it doesn’t become threatening until they’re in their 50s or 60s.
Some doctors think the initial lesion in atherosclerosis is high cholesterol infiltrating the inner lining of the arteries, while others think an inflammatory process occurs first, and the inflammatory process lets the cholesterol in.
I have written about vitamin D and arthrosclerosis before. Although I didn’t go into detail, the authors used vitamin D in an animal model to prevent and even help reverse arthrosclerosis.
Now, Doctor Benjamin Nwosu and colleagues, working under senior author Professor Mary M. Lee, all of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, have discovered that various abnormal cholesterol metabolites are associated with vitamin D levels in 8-year-old children.
They used a prospective cross-sectional study of 45 children to investigate the relationships between 25(OH)D and glucose, insulin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and various lipids.
Multivariate analysis showed significant inverse correlations between 25(OH)D and non-HDL cholesterol (p = 0.043), total cholesterol/HDL ratio (p = 0.028), and LDL (p = 0.016), after adjusting for age, race, sex, BMI, and seasonality. This means that they found the higher your vitamin D level, the better these markers. They found levels above 30 ng/ml were associated with better lipid levels than levels between 20 and 30 ng/ml.
No adjusted associations were seen with the other atherosclerotic markers. There were trends toward significance in BMI, CRP, and LDL-cholesterol, which are remarkable given the low number of children studied. There was a significant inverse correlation between 25(OH)D and a marker of insulin resistance prior to adjustment.
The authors concluded:
“This study showed that pre-pubertal children with 25(OH) D level of > 20 ng/mL but < 30 ng/mL had significantly lower levels of non-HDL cholesterol, TC/HDL ratio, and TG only, while those with 25(OH)D of ≥ 30 ng/mL had significantly reduced levels of non-HDL, TC/HDL, TG, and LDL cholesterol. Therefore, a 25(OH)D level of 30 ng/mL, not 20 ng/mL, is associated with optimal cardioprotection in healthy pre-pubertal children.”
This study highlights that if vitamin D does indeed prevent cardiovascular disease, it may start very early in life. This could be the case for many conditions. That is why it’s important to get enough vitamin D throughout the lifespan.