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Vitamin D Pills May Lower Blood Pressure in African Americans

Update Date: Mar 13, 2013 07:36 PM EDT

Vitamin D supplements could help lower blood pressure in African Americans, according to a new study.

High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and stroke, and is 40 percent more common in African Americans than in other American ethnic groups. 

Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital studied 250 African American adults.  The participants were divided into four groups.  Three of the four groups received a three-month regimen of daily vitamin D supplementation at various doses that range between 1,000 and 4,000 units.  The fourth group received a placebo.

The findings, published in the journal Hypertension, revealed that participants in the placebo group saw their systolic blood pressure rise, but participants in the supplementation group had their systolic blood pressure decrease by one to four points, with those who received the highest dose reaping the most benefits. Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

"The gains were modest, but significant," lead author Dr. John Forman, a physician in the Renal Division and Kidney Clinical Research Institute at BWH said in a statement. "If further research supports our finding, widespread use of vitamin D supplementation in African Americans could have significant public health benefits."

"This study may explain and help treat an important public health disparity," he said, adding that more research is still needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation lowers blood pressure in African Americans.

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