Low levels of vitamin D in children is associated with subclinical atherosclerosis more than 25 years later into their adulthood, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

More researchers are exploring the importance of vitamin D, focusing on what it can do for heart health. A connection between low levels and increased risks of heart attack and stroke has already been established and the study aimed to examine the relationship between levels of the vitamin during childhood and its effects in adults, most especially higher risks of carotid intima-thickness or IMT, a marker that characterizes structural atherosclerosis.

With vitamin D connected to cardiovascular risk, its levels may then be used as a means of predicting events surrounding heart disease.

Markus Juonala, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Turku Finland and colleagues worked with 2,148 subjects part of the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. The subjects were between the ages of 3 and 18 during the start of the study and were re-examined when they reached the ages of 30 to 45.

To measure levels of vitamin D during childhood, the researchers used stored serum from 2010. Measurements for carotid IMT, on the other hand, were taken from the left carotid artery's posterior wall with the help of ultrasound technology.

According to the results, subjects with the lowest levels of 25-OH vitamin D during their childhood had dramatically higher instances of carotid thickness, making them likelier to have higher risks of atherosclerosis.

"The association was [also] independent of conventional cardiovascular risk factors including serum lipids, blood pressure, smoking, diet, physical activity, obesity indices and socioeconomic status," added Juonala.

Researchers pointed out, however, that further studies need to be carried out to determine whether or not low levels of vitamin D caused thickening in the carotid arteries of the subjects. Just the same, they recommended that children receive ample levels of vitamin D as part of a healthy diet.

Other authors who contributed to the study include: Olli Raitakari, Costan Magnussen, Leena Taittonen, Eero Jokinen, Tomi Laitinen, Britt-Marie Loo, Jukka Marniemi, Matthew Sabin, David Burgner, Antti Jula, Nina Hutri-Kahonen, Mika Kahonen, Vera Mikkila, Jorma Viikari, Katja Pahkala and Atte Voipio.

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up within the arteries, hampering blood flow to the body. Plaque contains fatty substances and cholesterol mostly but will also include fibrin (a blood-clotting material), calcium and waste products from the cells.

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