People who are low in the “sunshine vitamin,” better known as Vitamin D, appear to be at higher risk for developing high blood pressure, known as hypertension. The author of a new study says taking a daily Vitamin D supplement could reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers, led by University of South Australia nutritionist Elina Hyppönen, conducted a population study of nearly 150,000 Europeans, looking at two genetic variants that reflected their Vitamin D status.
Investigators found people with a particular gene had more Vitamin D and a reduced risk of high blood pressure.
“And I think that this is a potentially important finding, because it’s likely that avoiding a Vitamin D deficiency, we can also lower the risk of developing hypertension,” said Hyppönen.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. This is the first study to strongly suggest its link to hypertension.
According to the Vitamin D Council, those at highest risk of not getting enough of the nutrient include people with darker skin, those who spend a lot of time indoors, people who live in northern latitude countries, seniors, pregnant women and those who are overweight.
Hyppönen says blood tests for Vitamin D are expensive and not routinely done. So, to make sure one is getting enough Vitamin D, she recommends spending some time outdoors.
“We can be pretty confident that we do not have severe problems of Vitamin D deficiency if we are exposed to some sunlight and we do not use excessive amounts of sun lotion. And also if we are consuming Vitamin D-fortified foods,” said Hyppönen.
Such foods include salmon, wild-caught mackerel, mushrooms, cod liver oil, tuna, sardines and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs.
In addition, Hyppönen said, it could not hurt to take a Vitamin D supplement, between 400 and 1,000 international units each day.
The study linking Vitamin D deficiency and hypertension is published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.