A new genetic study led by University of South Australia epidemiologist Professor Elina Hyppönen has confirmed a causal link between high blood pressure (hypertension) and deficiencies in vitamin D.
The findings just published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, drew on a sample of more than 146,000 records to assess the association.
“We set up a Mendelian randomisation study using genetic data from the D-CarDia collaboration involving more than 140,000 individuals of European ancestry from across Europe and North America,” Prof Hyppönen says.
“We used two common genetic variants that affect circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, which are generally used to determine a person’s vitamin D status, to measure the causal effect between vitamin D status and blood pressure and hypertension risk.
“And what we found was that for each 10 per cent increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration there were drops in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
"Statistically the association translated to just over an eight percent decrease in the odds of developing hypertension.”
Prof Hyppönen says that while there have been some small scale studies and randomised trials, until now, a direct causal link between vitamin D and a lowering of blood pressure has not been shown.
“These findings may have important implications to individuals who are vitamin D deficient,” Prof Hyppönen believes.
“The potential to prevent and reduce high blood pressure with vitamin D in place of more expensive medications is certainly something researchers can now usefully explore in greater depth.”
According to Prof Hyppönen while Mendelian randomisation helps to determine cause and effect by using genetic data and avoiding bias, there is always a possibility that the findings could occur by chance.
“What will be really important is an independent replication of this study,” Prof Hyppönen says.
“And to advance the work further, we need to do more research using randomised controlled studies to look at and confirm causality and importantly assess the clinical benefits of vitamin D supplements and dosage levels.”
This significant research into the relationship between vitamin D and hypertension was funded by the British Heart Foundation, UK Medical Research Council, and Academy of Finland.
Prof Hyppönen is a member of UniSA’s School of Population Health working at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.
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