WASHINGTON — Taking vitamin D supplements does nothing to lower cholesterol levels, at least in the short term, according to a study published on Tuesday in an American Heart Association journal.

Medical researchers led by Manish Ponda of the Rockefeller University in New York studied 151 people with vitamin D deficiency who received either a huge dose of vitamin D3 or a placebo orally every week for eight weeks.

No change was found in cholesterol levels at the end of their treatment, according to the researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

"Our study challenges the notion that vitamin D repletion improves cholesterol levels" said Ponda, an assistant professor of clinical investigation, in a statement issued by the American Heart Association.

Further studies are planned this year focusing on longer-term exposure to sunlight -- the natural way that the body creates its own vitamin D -- and cholesterol levels.

Suspected links between a lack of vitamin D and a substantially increased risk of death, including heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, have been the subject of medical research for several years.

[Vitamin D pills via Wikimedia Commons]