Low vitamin D at birth raises risk of hypertension in childhood

Research published in Hypertension July 1 suggests a vitamin D deficiency in early childhood could translate to an increased risk of high blood pressure in adolescence.

In their study of 775 children at the Boston Medical Center, Guoying Wang, MD, PhD, an assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues found that kids born with low levels of vitamin D saw an approximately 60% increased risk of elevated systolic BP between the ages of 6 and 8. Children in the study were followed from birth until age 18, and the majority lived in a lower-income, urban area.

Wang and co-authors considered low vitamin D as levels less than 11 ng/ml in cord blood at birth and less than 25 ng/ml in a subject’s blood during early childhood. In addition to the 60% higher risk of hypertension, kids who recorded persistently low levels of vitamin D had double the risk of elevated systolic BP between ages 3 and 18.

Vitamin D is found in eggs, salmon and fortified milk products, and the human body creates it when we’re exposed to sunlight. In a release, Wang said researchers are still unsure of what constitutes optimal circulating vitamin D levels during pregnancy and early childhood, and as always the team’s results will need to be taken with a grain of salt until they’re replicated in larger populations.

“Currently, there are no recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to screen all pregnant women and young children for vitamin D levels,” Wang said. “Our findings raise the possibility that screening and treatment of vitamin D deficiency with supplementation during pregnancy and early childhood might be an effective approach to reduce high blood pressure later in life.”