London: Vitamin D supplements could be as effective as some of the prescribed pill, when it comes to lowering blood pressure in patients diagnosed with hypertension, researchers say.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with high blood pressure, but until now there has been little scientific evidence that topping up levels of the vitamin in the blood makes a difference.
A new study, presented at the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) meeting in London, sheds light on direct benefits from taking supplements for five months in winter.
Sun exposure tops up natural levels more effectively than through diet, but northern European countries such as the UK only get sufficient levels of UV light for seven months a year.
Nearly 90 per cent of the body’s supply of vitamin D comes from the action of sunlight on the skin.
Researchers examined patients visiting the Holstebro Hospital in Denmark, which is at the 56th Northern latitude - about the same latitude as Glasgow and Moscow).
Altogether 112 patients taking part had their initial levels of vitamin D measured, and then they were given either Vitamin D or a placebo (dummy pill) for 20 weeks. 92 of the 112 patients were found to have low levels of vitamin D at the start of the study, the Daily Mail reported.
The researchers discovered that those patients taking the vitamin D supplement of 75 mcg (correct) daily showed a considerable reduction in central systolic blood pressure, blood pressure measured near the heart.
When compared to the placebo group, patients taking vitamin D had a lowered in systolic blood pressure of 6.8 mmHg, while diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 1.7mmHg.
“Probably the majority of Europeans have vitamin D deficiency, and many of these will also have high blood pressure,” study leader Dr Thomas Larsen said.
“What our results suggest is that hypertensive patients can benefit from vitamin D supplementation if they have vitamin D insufficiency.
“Vitamin D would not be a cure for hypertension in these patients, but it may help, especially in the winter months. However, it is important to stress, that this was a small study, and that larger studies are needed to provide solid evidence.”
ESH Vice-President, Professor Anna Dominiczak of Glasgow University, said that till now, “there has been little evidence of benefit from vitamin D to patents with hypertension.”
“The reduction in systolic blood pressure was quite significant - this is what powerful drugs do in trials.
“This is an initial study, so it needs to be confirmed, but it is potentially interesting as part of an overall strategy for managing hypertension in patients with low levels of vitamin D,” Prof Dominiczak added.