Health benefits of Vitamin D supplements highlighted by new research
Taking vitamin D supplements may lower blood pressure and boost exercise performance, research has shown.
Volunteers given the vitamin daily for two weeks saw fitness improvements that allowed them to cycle longer with less exertion.
Their blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol were also lower when compared with another group taking a dummy pill.
Millions of people in Europe are deficient in vitamin D, which is chiefly obtained from sunlight on the skin.
Researcher Dr Raquel Revuelta Iniesta, from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, said: "Our pilot study suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can improve fitness levels and lower cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure."
The scientists plan to follow up the small study, which had just 13 participants, with a larger clinical trial, looking at both healthy individuals and groups such as athletes and cyclists.
In the fitness test, volunteers taking vitamin D were able to cycle 6.5km in 20 minutes at the end of the two weeks, compared with 5km at the start.
Despite cycling 30pc further than participants given the inactive placebo, they showed lower signs of exertion.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were also lower in the urine of those taking the vitamin, which was given at a daily dose of 50 micrograms.
Previous studies have indicated that vitamin D blocks the action of an enzyme needed to make cortisol.
Large amounts of the hormone are thought to raise blood pressure by narrowing blood vessels and to stimulate the kidneys to retain water.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Endocrinology in Edinburgh.
Study lead author Dr Emad Al-Dujaili, also from Queen Margaret University, said: "Vitamin D deficiency is a silent syndrome linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and a higher risk for certain cancers.
"Our study adds to the body of evidence showing the importance of tackling this widespread problem."