Vitamin D supplements could lower your risk of autoimmune diseases | Health, Medicine and Fitness
THURSDAY, Jan. 27, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Taking vitamin D supplements may help prevent psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, according to a new study.
Previous research has hinted at this link, but the new study is the first randomized controlled trial to look at what happens when people are given vitamin D supplements and followed to see if they develop a autoimmune disease, the study authors said. Randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard of clinical research.
In the new study, people who took 2,000 international units per day (IU/day) of Vitamin D, with or without a gram of fish oil, for just over five years reduced their risk of developing an autoimmune disease by 22% compared to their counterparts who took placebo (“dummy”) pills.
“It appears that giving vitamin D prevents autoimmune disease, which is really exciting,” said study author Dr. Karen Costenbader, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
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There are many mechanisms to explain this discovery. “Vitamin D binds to receptors on immune system cells to activate a set of genes involved in immune system function,” she said.
Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system engages in destructive “friendly fire” against its own body parts.
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight. It’s hard to get as much food as we need, so most people will need supplements. The Institute of Medicine recommends people between the ages of 1 and 70 take 600 IU/day and adults over 70 aim for 800 IU/day. Other medical groups set the bar even higher.
The new study, called the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL), included nearly 26,000 adults (aged 67 on average). These people were not deficient in vitamin D and were not considered to be at high risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D with a 1 gram omega-3 fatty acid supplement; vitamin D with a placebo; omega-3 fatty acid with a placebo; or a placebo alone. Participants then answered questionnaires about new autoimmune disease diagnoses, and doctors reviewed their records to confirm those diagnoses.
People who took vitamin D or vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids had a lower rate of autoimmune disease than people who took a placebo or omega-3 fatty acids alone after just over five years of follow-up, and these effects were greater. pronounced after two years.
omega-3 fatty acids alone did not significantly reduce the incidence of autoimmune diseases. Many autoimmune diseases are marked by inflammation, and fish oil is known to help calm inflammation.
Costenbader and his colleagues plan to continue following participants for a few more years. “We want to see who benefits the most in terms of preventing autoimmune disease and whether vitamin D works as well or better in people at high risk for autoimmune disease,” she noted.
This is important because there are more than 80 autoimmune diseases, she explained.
Vitamin D and fish oil are safe, Costenbader said. “I suggest vitamin D 2000 IU/day and 1g/day marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) – the same doses used in VITAL,” she added.
You can get all the vitamin D you need by spending 15 minutes in the sun every day. But “it’s tricky because a lot of sun exposure leads to skin cancer,” she said.
Still, Costenbader warned that not everyone should jump on the vitamin D supplement bandwagon. “Some people need to avoid vitamin D because they have a history of kidney stones or other illnesses,” she said. “Consult your doctor before you start taking supplements.
VITAL was designed to see if vitamin D could reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke. The risk of developing an autoimmune disease was another endpoint of this trial.
The report was published online on January 26 in the BMJ.
Dr. Michael Holick has dedicated his career to the study of vitamin D. He is a professor of medicine, physiology, biophysics, and molecular medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
“There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of autoimmune disease, and this study confirms that vitamin D status, even if you have enough vitamin D, is associated with a reduced risk of developing autoimmune diseases,” Holick said. , which is unrelated to the new research.
It makes sense, he said: “Vitamin D is a major modulator of immune function at all levels.”
There’s no downside to upping your vitamin D intake, and there are plenty of benefits, he said. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to a host of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, brittle bone disease, certain types of cancer, and depression.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has more on the benefits of vitamin D.
SOURCES: Karen Costenbader, MD, rheumatologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; Michael Holick, MD, PhD, professor, medicine, physiology, biophysics, and molecular medicine, Boston University School of Medicine; BMJ, January 26, 2022, online
This article was originally published on true.