Can Vitamins Prevent Cardiovascular Calcification?

Since no medications or surgical procedures are available to treat cardiovascular calcification, clinicians generally recommend lifestyle changes.

Cardiovascular (CV) calcification is a known predictor of adverse CV events and mortality. Since no medications or surgical procedures are available to treat it, clinicians generally recommend lifestyle changes for affected patients.

A meta-analysis in the April 2015 issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences presented current thinking on the effect of diet and serum macro- and micronutrient levels on CV calcification.

Human studies of macronutrients in this condition are limited in scope and number, but the overall findings seem to suggest patients with CV calcification should avoid transfats and simple sugars, while increasing dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fats from oily fish may be wise.

The researchers looked at studies examining 3 minerals: calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. The data indicated patients who do not have renal disease or hyperparathyroidism benefit from 800 mcg of calcium daily. High intake of magnesium (≥380 mg daily) and phylloquinone (500 mcg daily) proved protective, as did serum vitamin D concentrations ≥75 nmol/L.

Conversely, inorganic phosphorus from food preservatives and soda seemed to be associated with higher levels of CV calcification.

The researchers concluded antioxidant vitamins are generally ineffective, with vitamin E supplementation tending to promote calcification. However, 2 antioxidant compounds— epigallocatechin gallate from green tea and resveratrol from red wine—were protective.

Study subjects who had homocysteine concentrations >12 mcmol/L were less likely to develop CV calcification. The researchers noted a paradoxical finding: plasma folate levels >39.4 nmol/L both lowered homocysteine and protected against CV calcification, suggesting a potential role for increased folate intake.

The clinical implications are simple: clinicians should counsel patients with CV calcification to avoid sugar, transfats, and preservatives found in processed foods and drinks. Increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids and vegetables is prudent, as is tight control of blood glucose.

Early findings seem to suggest magnesium and vitamin K play a role in prevention or treatment of CV calcification, but more studies are needed.