Vitamin D deficiency causes cardiovascular complications

Photo Credits: Jennifer McMenamin

Photo Credits: Jennifer McMenamin

Hypertension, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, thickening of the arteries due to plaque build up, are two leading  causes of or relative causes of mortality in the United States. Researchers of Washington University recently found a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased blood pressure as well as atherosclerosis.

One billion people worldwide have low levels of vitamin D’s storage form.

The way vitamin D contributes to the two aforementioned conditions was what researchers wanted to see; therefore, low density lipoprotein receptor knockout (LDLR−/−) and apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE−/−) mice were studied as models of human hypertension and atherosclerosis. The study involved feeding both groups of mice vitamin D deficient or sufficient food for  six weeks followed by high fat vitamin D deficient or sufficient food for 8-10 weeks.

LDL, commonly known as “bad cholesterol,” and ApoE, a class of molecules that helps break down fat constituents, are two major players in plaque build up and prevention in the cardiovascular system.

The results showed both LDLR−/− and ApoE−/− mice on the vitamin D deficient diets (FoodD) had increased blood pressure and progression of atherosclerosis. Specifically, compared to mice on FoodD+, the following was seen:

– Normal FoodD, blood pressure increased an average of 13mmHg (P< 0.04)
– High fat FoodD, blood pressure increased an average of 11.5mmHg (P< 0.003)
– FoodD, arterial blood pressure increased 14mmHg (P<0.04)
– FoodD, serum renin activity increased 1.5 fold (P<0.02)
– Normal FoodD, Urinary sodium excretion decreased 37% (P<0.05)
– FoodD, 2.3 to 8 fold bigger atherosclerotic lesions (plaque build up) in aortic regions (P<0.05)

This showed increased blood pressure, increased renin activity, decreased sodium elimination, and increased plaque build ups during vitamin D deficient diets. Two notes for context: Normal blood pressure for humans is 90-140 systolic and 60-90 diastolic. Also, renin is a hormone that increases arterial blood pressure and sodium excretion. The effects of the FoodD was shown as reversible by giving the mice vitamin D sufficient diets.

– FoodD+, blood pressure decreased by an average of 14.5mmHg
– FoodD+, renin activity decreased 50%

Vitamin D seems to be a powerful regulator of hypertension and atherosclerosis severity with low levels worsening the conditions. Vitamin D replacement therapy may become a commonplace treatment to combat high blood pressure and plaque filled arteries one day.

Sherry Weng, Jennifer E. Sprague, Jisu Oh, Amy E. Riek, Kathleen Chin, Miguel Garcia, Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi. Vitamin D Deficiency Induces High Blood Pressure and Accelerates Atherosclerosis in Mice. PloS ONE, 2013.


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