Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Health Sciences (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Gregory Grosicki


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is currently the leading cause of death worldwide, killing over half a million people in the US every year. This issue is only becoming more prominent, as both the world and US population are experiencing increased rates of CVD risk factors such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Black Americans specifically are experiencing increased rates of these risk factors, possibly due to lifestyle, socioeconomic, and genetic variables, ultimately leading to a higher prevalence of CVD in this population. One possible mechanism for this health disparity is racial differences in skin pigmentation, which can influence cardioprotective Vitamin D status. To test this hypothesis, we characterized the relationship between skin pigmentation, via melanin content (M-index), and blood pressure (BP) and arterial stiffness in young and apparently healthy Black and White adults. Brachial and central systolic and diastolic BP were significantly greater (p0.05). M-index was not significantly related to any cardiovascular health measures in the sample as a whole (r=0.05 to 0.25; p=0.14-0.78), or in Black (r=-0.21 to 0.13; p=0.38-0.74) and White (r=-0.43 to -0.31; p=0.11-0.23) participant groups. These data suggest that racial differences in body composition may contribute to elevated BP values in Black adults. However, our data suggest that skin pigmentation does not influence vascular health.