Vitamin D Lowers Blood Pressure

New research shows vitamin D helps blood pressure drop in African-Americans.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplement photo via Shutterstock.

After the long winter, we could all use some vitamin D. And new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in partnership with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, says that vitamin D—which has been shown to strengthen bones, protect against diseases ranging from the common cold to cancer, and reduce heart attack risk—has yet another benefit.

The study, which was published online in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, was based on the fact that high blood pressure is 40 percent more common in African-American adults than in any other U.S. group, likely because of a genetic predisposition to the disease. African-Americans also tend to develop high blood pressure earlier than people of other ethnicities, meaning it grows more difficult to reverse as time goes on.

In the study, researchers divided 250 African-American participants into four groups, three of which received vitamin D supplements for three months and one that took a placebo. Those not in the placebo group saw their blood pressure drop by one to four points, depending on the dosage strength, while those in the placebo group actually had their blood pressure slightly rise.

A report from Brigham and Women’s says:

“This study may explain and help treat an important public health disparity,” said the study’s lead author, John Forman, MD, a physician in the Renal Division and Kidney Clinical Research Institute at BWH. “More research is needed, but these data may indicate that vitamin D supplementation lowers blood pressure in African-Americans.”

And while these findings may not seem significant, even a modest drop in blood pressure can prevent serious health problems like heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke. Perhaps more importantly, this study addresses some of the health discrepancies that persist between people of different races in this country. This year’s Health of Boston report, for example, showed that African-American and Latino residents fared worse than Caucasians in nearly every major category of health. Studies like this one are an important step in starting to bridge that gap.