Low Vitamin D at Birth Raises Risk of Elevated Blood Pressure in Adolescence

A recent study of 775 found that low vitamin D levels at birth were associated with an increased risk of elevated systolic blood pressure in childhood and adolescence.

A recent study has found that having a vitamin D deficiency from birth to early childhood was associated with an increased risk of elevated blood pressure in the future.

After examining more than 750 patients, investigators found that children with a vitamin D deficiency had an approximately 60% higher risk of elevated systolic blood pressure between the ages of 6 and 18 — prompting the authors to suggest all pregnant and young children to be screened for vitamin D levels.

"Currently, there are no recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to screen all pregnant women and young children for vitamin D levels. 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," said lead author Guoying Wang, MD, PhD, assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In order to evaluate the association between vitamin D trajectories from birth to early childhood and elevated systolic blood pressure during childhood and adolescence, investigators performed a prospective birth cohort study. The cohort was made up of 775 participants, which were enrolled from 2005 to 2012, up to the age of 18 years at the Boston Medical Center in Boston, MA. Investigators noted that most of the 775 participants were defined as living in a low-income, urban area and 68% were African American.

Low vitamin D levels were defined as less than 11 ng/ml in cord blood at birth or less than 25 ng/ml in a child’s blood during early childhood. Elevated systolic blood pressure was defined as systolic blood pressure equal to or greater than the 75th percentile.

After up to a a decade of follow-up investigators made several observations about the study cohort. Vitamin D deficiency at birth was associated with a higher risk of elevated systolic blood pressure between the ages of 3 and 18 (OR 1.38; 95% CI 1.01-1.87). A vitamin D deficiency in early childhood was associated with a 1.59-fold (95% CI, 1.02—2.46) higher risk of elevated systolic blood pressure at ages 6 to 18. Investigators also found that persistent low vitamin D status from birth to early childhood was associated with a higher risk (OR 2.04; 95% CI, 1.13–3.67) of elevated systolic blood pressure at ages 3 to 18.

Investigators wrote that the results suggest a low vitamin D status and trajectory in early life were associated with an increased risk of elevated systolic blood pressure during childhood and adolescence. Additionally, they hope their findings will help to inform future clinical and public health strategies for screening and supplementation of vitamin D during pregnancy and childhood to reduce risk of elevated blood pressure later on in life.

This study, “Vitamin D Trajectories From Birth to Early Childhood and Elevated Systolic Blood Pressure During Childhood and Adolescence,” is published in Hypertension in the Journal of the American Heart Association.