Vitamin D isn't just good for your bones; it also may be good for the heart. In a recent study conducted by a team of German scientists, people suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF) who took 50 mcg (or 2,000 IU) of vitamin D3 daily increased their blood concentration of a helpful anti-inflammatory compound (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006, vol. 83, no. 4).

Previous studies have shown that vitamin D helps control blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing diabetes, both contributing factors in CHF, but this study focused on the vitamin's anti-inflammatory properties. After a nine-month period, the study group receiving a vitamin D3 supplement had a 43 percent increase in blood concentrations of the anti-inflammatory compound cytokine IL-10. Levels of this compound did not change in a placebo group. In fact, those in the placebo group experienced a 12 percent increase in a pro-inflammatory compound called cytokine TNF-alpha. (Levels remained unchanged in the vitamin D group.)

"Research has established a link between inflammation and a failing heart," says Guillermo Torre-Amione, MD, PhD, the director of cardiac transplant research at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston. "What we haven't been able to demonstrate," he cautions, "is that specific anti-inflammatory therapies can make the heart better." The most intriguing question the study raises, says Torre-Amione, is whether "simple measures like a better diet or additional supplements might lead to the prevention of heart failure." Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from CHF.