For men sex hormones and low vitamin D tied to heart and bone health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Low vitamin D levels are now found to be linked to sex hormones that can affect bone, and heart health in men.

According to building studies, low levels of vitamin D leads to long term ill effects that are intensified by lower levels of the sex hormone estrogen, but not testosterone. The finding, from Johns Hopkins researchers is thought to be the first that links how estrogen, testosterone and Vitamin D work together to prevent heart and bone disease.

Lead study investigator and cardiologist Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute says, "All three steroid hormones – vitamin D, estrogen and testosterone – are produced from cholesterol, whose blood levels are known to influence arterial and bone health. Our study gives us a much better understanding of how the three work in concert to affect cardiovascular and bone health."

The researchers, as part of a larger studied, looked at the link between low levels of vitamin D and heart disease risk in a subset of men taking part in a cancer study who are also a part of an ongoing national health survey that includes women and men. The study was designed to compare disease risk among people with low levels of vitamin D to those with higher levels.


Free chemical forms of testosterone and estrogen in the men were measured for the study. No link was found between low testosterone levels, vitamin D, heart disease and bone health. However, lower estrogen levels, combined with low vitamin D levels revealed increased risk for heart disease and osteoporosis in the men.

"These results reinforce the message of how important proper quantities of vitamin D are to good bone health, and that a man's risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease is heavily weighted on the complex and combined interaction of how any such vitamin deficits interact with both their sex hormones, in particular, estrogen," Michos says.

The researchers plan to study blood samples in women to see if the findings are the same. The new research supports past studies that low levels of vitamin D increase an individual’s risk for heart disease. According to Dr. Michos, a source of confusion exists because estrogen replacement in women does not reduce, and may even increase heart disease risk.

In the meantime, studies are ongoing to clearly define the role of vitamin D for preventing heart disease, stroke and for keeping bones healthy. For now, Dr. Michos recommends boosting vitamin D intake by consuming cod, sardines, and fortified dairy products, in addition to vitamin supplements. She also recommends briefly exposing skin to UV rays during warmer weather to boost vitamin D levels.