~ 070608 Vitamin D, a Natural ACE Inhibitor for High Blood Pressure

Jonathan Wright, MD reports in his January 2004 newsletter (Vol. 11 Issue 1) that research indicates that Vitamin D may act as a natural regulator of blood pressure by inhibiting the synthesis of Angiotensin II, a hormone that is a major cause of hypertension.

Production of Angiotensin II is dependent on Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE). In individuals with hypertension Angiotensin II causes vasoconstriction as well as thickening of the heart muscle and artery walls. ACE inhibitors are a major class of blood pressure reducing drugs and can have a number of side effects including cough, headache, vertigo, skin rash, kidney disease and tissue swelling in the face and throat.

Epidemiological studies have shown that people who live in sunny, equatorial regions tend to have less hypertension. It is also known that people tend toward higher blood pressure during the winter months when their sun exposure is limited. Additionally, studies have found that subjects exposed to ultraviolet light, increasing vitamin D production, reported lowered blood pressure. Other small studies have found that vitamin D supplementation lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Researchers have identified the mechanism by which vitamin D helps reduce blood pressure. Renin, a proteolytic enzyme, is produced when renal or vascular pressure is lowered (ischemia), splits a substance called angiotensinogen, producing angiotensin I, which is in turn changed to angiotensin II by ACE. Vitamin D inhibits this whole process by reducing the initial production of renin, resulting in lower blood pressure.

The current RDI for vitamin D is 200 IU. A 1999 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that 10,000 IU is a safe daily maximum vitamin D dosage. Vitamin D toxicity studies have found that toxicity occurs in the range of 40,000 IU daily.

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