Childhood Vitamin D Levels Tied to Adult Atherosclerosis

Menopausal Hormone Therapy Does Not Affect Atherosclerosis
Menopausal Hormone Therapy Does Not Affect Atherosclerosis
Low vitamin D levels during childhood are linked with increased risk for subclinical atherosclerosis in adulthood.

Low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) during childhood were associated with increased adulthood carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), according to new data.

The study was published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“Our results showed an association between low [25(OH)D] levels in childhood and increased occurrence of subclinical atherosclerosis in adulthood,” study researcher Markus Juonala, MD, PhD, of the University of Turku in Finland, said in a press release. “The association was independent of conventional cardiovascular risk factors, including serum lipids, blood pressure, smoking, diet, physical activity, obesity indices and socioeconomic status.”

For the study, Dr. Juonala and fellow researchers enrolled 2,148 patients from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study who were aged 3 to 18 years at baseline in 1980. Patients were reexamined in 2007 when they were aged 30 and 45 years, and in 2010, researchers measured childhood levels of 25(OH)D from stored serum.

The main outcome measure was carotid artery IMT, a marker of structural atherosclerosis, from 2007. Researchers measured carotid IMT using ultrasound technology on the posterior wall of the left carotid artery.

Overall, girls had lower levels of childhood vitamin D than boys (50 nmol/L vs. 53.3 nmol/L; P<.0001).

After adjustment for age, sex and childhood risk factors, low childhood 25(OH)D levels yielded increased adulthood carotid IMT in women (–0.006 ± 0.003; P=.03), but not men (0.001±0.004; P=.88).

The adjusted analysis also revealed that children with 25[OH]D levels in the lowest quartile — defined as <40 nmol/L — had an increased prevalence of high-risk IMT as adults (21.9% vs. 12.7%; OR=1.70; 95 % CI, 1.15-2.31; P=.0007) or adult risk factors such as vitamin D levels (OR=1.80; 95% CI, 1.30-2.48; P=.0004).

When researchers performed sex-specific analyses, they reported that these associations were significant both in women and men (P<.05).

Furthermore, sensitivity analyses showed that patients with childhood vitamin D levels in the lowest quintile (<37 nmol/L) had comparable results to those using a quartile cut-point.

“More research is needed to investigate whether low vitamin D levels have a causal role in the development of increased carotid artery thickness,” Dr. Juonala said. “Nevertheless, our observations highlight the importance of providing children with a diet that includes sufficient vitamin D.”


  1. Juonala M et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;doi:10.1210/jc.2014-3944.