A lack of vitamin D can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, a major study claims.
Scientists in the US assessed 1,739 patients and found that people with low levels of the vitamin in their blood are 62% more likely to suffer heart problems than those with higher amounts.
Vitamin D is mainly manufactured in the body after sunlight hits the skin, and it is also contained in milk, eggs, oily fish, cod liver oil, and some cereals.
Dr Thomas Wang, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the research, said: "These results are intriguing and suggestive but need to be followed up with further study.
"Having both high blood pressure and a vitamin D deficiency also doubled the risk of a cardiovascular event.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that low levels of vitamin D may adversely affect the cardiovascular system.
"Our data raise the possibility that treating vitamin D deficiency, via supplementation or lifestyle measures, could reduce cardiovascular risk."
The vitamin also helps maintain strong bones and a severe deficiency can lead to rickets in children.
It can also protect people against breast, colon and prostate cancer by helping the body to absorb calcium.
Harvard Medical School
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