Many people suffer from chronic inflammation, which sets the stage for a host of diseases such as asthma, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, depression, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. The presence of chronic inflammation may also make infections such as coronavirus and influenza potentially life-threatening by derailing the immune defense. According to a new study from the University of South Australia that is published in International Journal of Epidemiology, it appears that vitamin D can inhibit inflammation by way of different mechanisms, thereby reducing the risk of a variety of diseases and even premature death. The need for vitamin D varies from person to person. Also, it is essential to make sure that blood levels of the nutrient are optimal and that vitamin D is properly activated in the body.
Acute inflammation is a natural process in connection with healing processes and also occurs when the immune defense attacks germs. The body produces free radicals for these inflammatory attacks, but it is vital that it keeps the free radicals on a tight leash in order to prevent them from damaging healthy cells and tissue.
In cases where the inflammation becomes chronic, the body is constantly being bombarded with free radicals that can set the stage for a host of diseases such as asthma, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, depression, gut inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Moreover, acute cytokine storm and hyperinflammation have the potential to make influenza and coronavirus infections life-threatening. It is the same type of derailed immune reactions that make blood poisoning lethal.
According to WHO, chronic inflammation and accompanying diseases are the leading cause of death globally, and the problem is expected to increase dramatically if we do not make fundamental changes to our diet and lifestyle.
More and more attention is focused on vitamin D, and scientists from the University of South Australia have found a direct link between increased inflammation and low blood levels of vitamin D.
- One billion people around the globe are believed to lack vitamin D
- Things that increase the risk of becoming vitamin D-deficient include wintertime, spending too much time indoors, ageing, being dark-skinned, being overweight, and having diabetes and other chronic ailments.
- Genetic variations may affect our individual need for vitamin D
Link between inflammation and levels of vitamin D in the blood
In their study, the scientists looked at data from 294,970 people, all of whom were registered in the UK Biobank. They made what is known as a Mendelian randomization which is a method of using measured variation in genes of known function to examine the causal effect of a modifiable exposure on disease in observational studies. In this case, the researchers compared blood levels of vitamin D and CRP (C-reactive protein), which is a marker of inflammation. Levels of CRP are also elevated in the case of chronic inflammation. In their study, they found a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and elevated CRP levels.
More vitamin D for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases
According to the new study, boosting blood levels of vitamin D in people with deficiencies of the nutrient can reduce chronic inflammation. This can help prevent many of the diseases where chronic inflammation is involved. The scientists believe that adequate levels of vitamin D in the blood can also minimize many of the complications that are associated with overweight, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.
Leas researcher, Professor Elina Hyppönen, calls the study results important. The scientists have even observed a number of health benefits that follow in the wake of an optimized vitamin D status. In some cases, however, the effect has only been small or negligible. This may be due to a lack of magnesium, a mineral that is needed to convert 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (the kind of vitamin D that measured in blood tests) into 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, the active form of the nutrient.
The new study is published in International Journal of Epidemiology and supports earlier research.
- Blood levels should ideally lie somewhere in the range of 50-160 nmol/L – while 75-120 nmol/L would be even better.
The more vitamin D, the less inflammation
Researchers from National Jewish Health in Denver, USA, have conducted an in-vitro study where they exposed white blood cells to solutions with different concentrations of vitamin D. They found that white blood that did not get enough vitamin D produced high amounts of IL-6 and TNF-alpha, both of which are inflammation markers. The study revealed that vitamin D’s ability to inhibit inflammation hinges on vitamin levels in the blood. The best result is seen with levels higher than 50 nmol/L.
Why vitamin D is important for the entire immune system
- Vitamin D activates the different white blood cells that are important for preventing and fighting infection
- Vitamin D prevents the immune defense from becoming derailed by regulating and inhibiting the formation of pro-inflammatory markers such as CRP, IL-6, and TNF-alpha.
Ang Zhou, Elina Hyppönen. Vitamin D deficiency and C-reactive protein: a bidirectional mendelian randomization study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2022
University of Australia. Down on Vitamin D? It could be the cause of chronic inflammation. Sciencedaily. August 7, 2022
Iacopo Chiodini et al., Vitamin D Status and SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19 Clinical outcomes. Frontiers in Public Health. 22 December 2021
Roma Pahwa; Ishwarial Jialal. Chronic Inflammation. NCBI April 2018
Aya Mousa et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on inflammation: protocol for a systematic review. BMJ Open 2016
National Jewish Health. How vitamin D inhibits inflammation. ScienceDaily 2012
Majid Shojaei et al. The Correlation between Serum Level of Vitamin D Outcome of Sepsis Patients; a Cross-sectional Study. Archives of Academic Emergency Medicine 2019
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
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