Background Evidence of an association between serum vitamin D and cardiovascular disease risk is inconsistent and comes predominantly from studies in high-income settings. We assessed the association between serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D) and cardiovascular disease risk factors in a population of young Indian adults. Methods Cross-sectional analyses of data from APCAPS (Andhra Pradesh Children and Parents Study); a prospective birth cohort study in rural south India. Participants were 1038 (40.3% females) adults aged 18-24 years. Main outcome measures were blood pressures, fasting serum lipids (cholesterols and triglycerides), fasting glucose, insulin, measures of arterial stiffness (aortic augmentation index and aortic pulse wave velocity (aPWV)), carotid intimamedia thickness, body mass index (BMI) and body fat (dual X-ray absorptiometry). Results Vitamin D deficiency (≤20ng/ml) was observed in 41.1%of this lean (mean BMI: 19.5) and active (mean minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per day: 186) population. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with higher median body fat in both males (15.9% body fat in vitamin D deficient males vs. 14.6% in non-deficient males, p<0.05) and females (29.1% body fat in vitamin D deficient females vs. 27.8% in non-deficient females, p<0.05) but no associations were observed between vitamin D deficiency and mean BMI or median fat mass index (FMI). Except a weak inverse association with fasting insulin in males, there was no clear association between serum vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease risk factors in fully adjusted models. Conclusions We did not find clear evidence for an association between serum vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Our results, consistent with the limited evidence from randomised trials of vitamin D supplementation and Mendelian randomisation experiments, suggest that the postulated link between serum vitamin D and cardiovascular disease may be non-causal. Instead, it may be attributable to confounding by lifestyle factors such as obesity and physical inactivity which may provide more fruitful targets for cardiovascular disease prevention.
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