Low vitamin D levels at birth or in early childhood may increase the risk of high blood pressure in later childhood or adolescence, suggests a study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The study was conducted by Xiaobin Wang, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues. It appears in Hypertension.
Vitamin D is a nutrient found in some foods and is produced in the body after exposure to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium and is needed to maintain strong bones. Previous studies have linked low vitamin D levels to high blood pressure in adults and older children.
The researchers analyzed data from 775 children in the Boston area who were enrolled at birth in a long-term study of obesity risk factors and followed until age 18. Vitamin D levels were measured using blood samples taken at birth and in early childhood. The children’s systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) was taken annually from ages 3 through 18. Elevated systolic blood pressure is considered a more reliable indicator of cardiovascular disease than diastolic blood pressure (the lower number in the reading).
Children with a low vitamin D level at birth had a 38 percent higher risk for elevated systolic pressure at ages 6 through 18, compared to children with a sufficient vitamin D level at birth. Children with a low vitamin D level at ages 1 to 3 had a nearly 60 percent higher risk of elevated systolic pressure from ages 3 to 18.
The study suggests that a low vitamin D level at birth or in early childhood may increase the risk of high blood pressure from later childhood through adolescence. If the study results are confirmed, treating pregnant women and young children for vitamin D deficiency may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure later in life.
Wang, G, et al. Vitamin D trajectories from birth to early childhood and elevated systolic blood pressure during childhood and adolescence. Hypertension. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.13120