Does Sufficient Evidence Exist to Support a Causal Association Between Vitamin D Status and Cardiovascular Disease Risk? An Assessment Using Hill's Criteria for Causality

Nutrients. 2014 Sep 2;6(9):3403-30. doi: 10.3390/nu6093403.

Abstract

Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels have been found to be inversely associated with both prevalent and incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors; dyslipidemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. This review looks for evidence of a causal association between low 25(OH)D levels and increased CVD risk. We evaluated journal articles in light of Hill's criteria for causality in a biological system. The results of our assessment are as follows. Strength of association: many randomized controlled trials (RCTs), prospective and cross-sectional studies found statistically significant inverse associations between 25(OH)D levels and CVD risk factors. Consistency of observed association: most studies found statistically significant inverse associations between 25(OH)D levels and CVD risk factors in various populations, locations and circumstances. Temporality of association: many RCTs and prospective studies found statistically significant inverse associations between 25(OH)D levels and CVD risk factors. Biological gradient (dose-response curve): most studies assessing 25(OH)D levels and CVD risk found an inverse association exhibiting a linear biological gradient. Plausibility of biology: several plausible cellular-level causative mechanisms and biological pathways may lead from a low 25(OH)D level to increased risk for CVD with mediators, such as dyslipidemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Experimental evidence: some well-designed RCTs found increased CVD risk factors with decreasing 25(OH)D levels. Analogy: the association between serum 25(OH)D levels and CVD risk is analogous to that between 25(OH)D levels and the risk of overall cancer, periodontal disease, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.

Conclusion: all relevant Hill criteria for a causal association in a biological system are satisfied to indicate a low 25(OH)D level as a CVD risk factor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*

Substances

  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D