European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Vitamin D and high blood pressure: causal association or epiphenomenon?

  • Setor K. Kunutsor
  • Stephen Burgess
  • Patricia B. Munroe
  • Hassan Khan


High plasma levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, but whether this association is causal remains to be ascertained. We performed a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials, to examine the effect of vitamin D supplementation on both systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and supplemented these results with a Mendelian randomization analysis to investigate the causal relationship between vitamin D status (25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]) and BP. Pooled random effects meta-analysis of weighted mean differences across 16 trials of vitamin D supplementation showed a non-significant reduction in SBP (−0.94, 95 % CI −2.98, 1.10 mmHg) and DBP (−0.52, 95 % CI −1.18, 0.14 mmHg), with evidence of heterogeneity (I2 = 67.9 %, P < 0.001) and publication bias (P = 0.02) among trials of SBP. There was a significant reduction in DBP (−1.31, 95 % CI −2.28, −0.34 mmHg, P = 0.01) in participants with pre-existing cardiometabolic disease. Variants at three published loci (GC, DHCR7, CYP2R1, and CYP24A1) for 25(OH)D, were not significantly associated with BP, but rs6013897 in CYP24A1 gene region had nominally significant associations with both SBP and DBP (P < 0.05). Evidence from the associations of the genetic variants with the risk of vitamin D deficiency (defined as a 25(OH)D level < 50 nmol/L) and BP showed that the causal effects of a doubling of genetically-elevated risk of vitamin D deficiency were 0.14 mmHg (95 % CI −0.19, 0.47, P = 0.42), and 0.12 mmHg (95 % CI −0.09, 0.33, P = 0.25) on SBP and DBP respectively. Additional evidence from genetic data are directionally consistent with clinical trial data, though underpowered to reliably demonstrate a strong causal effect of vitamin D status on BP. Further investigation may be warranted.


Vitamin D Blood pressure Clinical trial Meta-analysis Single nucleotide polymorphism Mendelian randomisation 



We thank the International Consortium of Blood Pressure Genome Wide Association Studies for providing data on request.

Conflict of interest

PBM is supported by the National Institutes for Health Research Biomedical Research Unit (NIHRBRU) at Barts. SB is supported by the Wellcome Trust (Grant number 100114). The NIHRBRU or Wellcome Trust had no role in study design, in data collection, analysis or interpretation, in writing the report, or in the decision to submit for publication. There was no external funding for this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.William Harvey Research Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine and DentistryQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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