Adults who had low vitamin D levels as children and teens may be more likely to have hardening of the arteries, a new study suggests.
Artery hardening is associated with heart disease.
The study included more than 2,100 people in Finland.
Their vitamin D levels were measured at ages 3 to 18, and they were checked for artery hardening at ages 30 to 45.
Those with the lowest vitamin D levels when they were youngsters had a much higher risk for artery hardening as adults, according to the study published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
This link was independent of other heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, poor eating, lack of exercise and obesity.
Only an association was seen between childhood vitamin D levels and later heart health.
The study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Further research is needed to learn if low vitamin D levels actually contribute to artery hardening, but the findings highlight the need to ensure children get adequate levels of vitamin D in their diet, said study author Dr. Markus Juonala in a journal news release. He is a specialist in internal medicine and endocrinology at the University of Turku in Finland.
Previous studies have found a connection between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of stroke and heart attack, according to background information from the researchers. They also say low vitamin D levels are common among children worldwide.