By Jane Hart, MD
Healthnotes Newswire (February 7, 2008)—Research has shown that healthy vitamin D levels may protect against osteoporosis, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. Now there is evidence that vitamin D may help protect against a potentially dangerous rise in blood pressure that occurs in some people as they age.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that as many as 60% of whites and more than 90% of blacks who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey had insufficient blood levels of vitamin D, which is obtained through the diet or produced in the skin by the effects of the sun.
Researchers also looked at the association between vitamin D, blood pressure, and age and found that people with lower blood levels of vitamin D had significantly higher increases in systolic blood pressure (the top number of the blood pressure reading) as they aged than did people who had healthy levels. In fact, the age-related rise in blood pressure was 20% lower in people who had healthy vitamin D levels than those who did not, suggesting that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in high blood pressure development.
Several other research studies have suggested a role for vitamin D in reducing blood pressure, according to the study’s authors. One study showed that daily doses of 400 IU of vitamin D plus 600 mg of calcium significantly reduced blood pressure in elderly women by more than 9% after eight weeks, while treatment with 600 mg of calcium alone reduced blood pressure by only 4%.
“There is not enough evidence for vitamin D preventing hypertension to make this global recommendation; however, since vitamin D insufficiency is highly prevalent in the United States, it might be a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement given the strong evidence in preventing osteoporotic fractures,” said Vin Tangpricha MD, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Lipids at Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Tangpricha and his colleagues hope for improved methods to detect and treat vitamin D insufficiency in adults in the United States and especially in blacks. The authors also note that further studies are needed to determine vitamin D’s effect on blood pressure and if giving all patients vitamin D will help lower blood pressure.
People with a family history or other risk factors for high blood pressure, including being older than 65, should have their blood pressure checked regularly and should talk with their doctor about dietary factors that may help protect against this condition.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:136–41)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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