Study Links Sunshine Vitamin, Heart Health

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Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin," made when the rays of the sun are absorbed by the skin.

Doctors have known for years it's needed to prevent brittle bones, CBS News correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports.

Today's news: It could also prevent heart attacks.

A study followed 18,225 men over the age of 40 for 10 years. Those with a low Vitamin D level not only had more than double the risk of a heart attack - they appeared more likely to die from it.

"It does seem that Vitamin D levels seem to be real predictor of heart disease," said Dr. Edward Giovannucci, author of the Harvard School of Public Health study.

Research suggests that Vitamin D is important for blood vessel health and blood pressure control. Today's news comes on the heels of a study showing women with breast cancer do far worse if they have low Vitamin D levels when diagnosed.

The current recommendations for daily Vitamin D intake: 200 units until age 50, then 400 until age 70 - then 600.

That's not enough, according to the authors of today's study.

"We really need to increase the Vitamin D intake levels for most people," Giovannucci said. "We may need to go three to four times higher than what most people get currently."

While researchers are documenting more health problems associated with having low Vitamin D, they haven't yet proven increasing Vitamin D will treat them.