(NaturalNews) Vitamin D deficiency may triple a person's risk of high blood pressure, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago.
"Our results indicate that early vitamin D deficiency may increase the long-term risk of high blood pressure in women at mid-life," researcher Flojaune Griffin said.
The researchers recruited 559 white women from Tecumseh, Michigan, who were between 24 and 44 years old when the study began in 1992. The participants' vitamin D blood levels were measured at the beginning of the study and once a year after that for 15 years.
At the beginning of the study, 5.5 percent of the women who were deficient in vitamin D suffered from high blood pressure, compared with only 2.8 percent of the women who had sufficient levels of the vitamin. At the end of the study in 2007, 10 percent of the women in the deficiency group had high blood pressure, compared with only 3.7 percent in the "sufficient" group.
"This is preliminary data so we can't say with certainty that low vitamin D levels are directly linked to high blood pressure," Griffin said. "But this may be another example of how what you do early in life impacts your health years later."
Vitamin D is known to play a crucial role in producing strong bones and teeth. New research increasingly suggests that it also helps regulate the immune system and protect against cancer, autoimmune disorders and heart disease.
The body naturally produces vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight. A number of factors have led to widespread deficiency, however, especially at latitudes far from the equator. These factors include less time spent outside and overuse of sunscreen. Dark-skinned people living at extreme latitudes are also especially vulnerable, as their bodies produce less vitamin D from the same amount of sun than those of lighter-skinned people.