New study shows inverse relationship between vitamin D and blood pressure in adolescents

Published: February 6, 2024

Physical activity, especially when occurring outdoors, can increase the serum level of vitamin D while simultaneously helping to control blood pressure in adolescents, according to a new research study from a team that included the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Led by Keisyanna Araujo-Moura, a PhD candidate in public health at the School of Public Health, University of São Paulo, researchers assessed the relationship between blood pressure and vitamin D by estimating the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and other cardiovascular risk factors in adolescents, aged 12-17 years old, from public and private schools in Brazilian cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

Augusto César Ferreira De Moraes PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin, served as senior author on the study.

The research found that 10% of adolescents in Brazil experience high blood pressure, which is often linked to low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D supports bone development through calcium maintenance; a dearth can lead to declining bone density, broken bones, deformities in joints, and cardiovascular events. In children, severe vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a condition that results in weakening or softening of bones.

“Vitamin D deficiency is widespread among various age groups and is influenced by factors such as blood pressure and physical activity levels,” Araujo-Moura said. “Particularly in adolescents, low levels of vitamin D can be linked to insufficient sunlight exposure and limited physical activity, which are crucial for skeletal health and maintaining proper nutrition.”

The study concluded that given the inverse relationship between vitamin D and blood pressure in adolescents, physical activity taking place outdoors can doubly support adolescent health.

“Engaging in outdoor physical activities boosts vitamin D and helps regulate blood pressure,” Ferreira De Moraes said. “This suggests vitamin D plays a crucial role in connecting physical activity with blood pressure management in young people.”