03/14/2013 02:15 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2013

Vitamin D And High Blood Pressure: Supplement Shown To Ward Off Hypertension In New Study

Daylight savings time has imparted a few extra hours of sunshine across the U.S., just as researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital revealed how the vitamin D typically derived from that light may help African Americans keep their blood pressure in check.

For the study, which was published in the March 13, 2013 edition of the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension, researchers enlisted 250 African-American adults and divided them into four groups. Three of the groups received a three-month regimen of daily vitamin D supplementation at various doses ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 units. The fourth group received a placebo.

While the results were modest -- participants in the placebo group saw their systolic blood pressure rise, while participants in the supplementation group had their systolic blood pressure decrease by one to four points -- the gains were still significant, according to the study's lead author, John Forman, MD, a physician in the Renal Division and Kidney Clinical Research Institute at BWH.

"More research is needed, but these data may indicate that vitamin D supplementation lowers blood pressure in African-Americans," Forman said in a release highlighting his findings.

The health benefits of vitamin D have been longstanding, particularly for African Americans, 31 percent of whom typically don't get enough, despite studies showing that it may remedy everything from daytime sleepiness to breast and prostate cancer.

But while Forman's research may suggest that African Americans need to get in more vitamin D, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism last month found that they may not need any more than other racial and ethic groups.

According to the research, black and white women absorb and metabolize vitamin D in the same way. That means African-Americans don't have to worry about taking larger doses of vitamin D to compensate, said the study's lead author Dr. J. Chris Gallagher, of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha.

For men and women age 30 and up, the National Institutes of Health recommends 600 IU of vitamin D per day.

Check out 12 ways to get your fill of vitamin D in the slideshow below.



12 Ways To Get Your Daily Vitamin D

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