Can vitamin D dietary supplements forestall autoimmune illness?

Delly Bezoss

Close up of soft gel vitamin D capsules on a yellow background

You don’t must look far to search out claims that taking vitamin D dietary supplements is nice in your well being. It’s purported to be good for every part from preventing cancer and dementia to avoiding infections and heart disease.

Sadly, many supposed advantages of vitamin D dietary supplements remain unproven. But, hundreds of thousands of individuals take vitamin D commonly, pondering it is going to assist forestall a variety of diseases, together with sure autoimmune situations. However does it? A brand new randomized, controlled study printed in TheBMJ seems carefully at that query.

Why would vitamin D forestall autoimmune illness?

Though the reason for most autoimmune illness is basically unknown, the main idea is that the regulation of the physique’s immune system goes awry. The immune system usually defends the physique from invaders comparable to infections, and helps restore broken tissues. When an autoimmune situation develops, the immune system assaults its host. For instance, with rheumatoid arthritis, immune cells assault joints, lungs, and different components of the physique.

Analysis has proven that vitamin D can work together with immune cells, have an effect on genes that regulate irritation, and alter the response of the immune system. So it is smart to research whether or not supplemental vitamin D is an efficient strategy to deal with or forestall autoimmune illness.

The BMJ research drew on information gathered throughout a large trial printed a number of years in the past. Greater than 25,000 older adults had been randomly assigned to take

  • 2,000 IU of vitamin D or an an identical placebo (inactive tablet) each day. (That is greater than the recommended daily amount for adults, however decrease than the higher restrict of 4,000 IU.)
  • 1,000 mg of omega-3 oil or an an identical placebo each day.

After a mean of 5 years, new diagnoses of autoimmune illness amongst research contributors had been tallied.

What did the brand new research discover?

The reply could rely upon the place you heard or learn concerning the BMJ research. It’s true that the researchers discovered that adults taking vitamin D dietary supplements had a decrease danger of creating autoimmune illness. However right here’s what a number of the extra enthusiastic information headlines stated:

Sounds nice, proper? However is it true?

What does a more in-depth have a look at the research inform us?

The researchers reported that

  • 123 folks taking vitamin D developed autoimmune illness, in contrast with 155 folks within the placebo group. This represents a 22% discount. That seems like quite a bit, however the precise lower in danger for creating an autoimmune illness fell from about 12 folks in 1,000 to 9.5 folks in 1,000.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and psoriasis had been the commonest situations. No single autoimmune illness was reliably prevented by vitamin D supplementation. Solely when the numbers of all the autoimmune illnesses had been mixed did researchers see a profit.
  • The advantage of vitamin D was extra apparent when solely the ultimate three years of the research had been analyzed. This implies that it takes some time to profit from a each day complement.
  • These assigned to obtain omega-3 fatty acids didn’t have a decrease danger for confirmed autoimmune illness.
  • Unwanted side effects had been minor and comparable in these taking dietary supplements and people taking placebo.

This randomized research is among the many greatest to discover the affect of vitamin D supplementation on the danger of creating autoimmune illness. But the research relied on self-reported instances, later confirmed by medical report evaluate. So it’s potential that some instances of autoimmune illness had been ignored.

As well as, the research solely included older adults (common age 67). That is necessary as a result of a number of the most typical autoimmune illnesses, comparable to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, usually start in early maturity. The outcomes may need been totally different if the research had included youthful contributors.

Ought to all of us be taking vitamin D dietary supplements?

Based mostly on this research, I’d say no. For one factor, these findings should be confirmed by different impartial researchers. And regardless of overly enthusiastic headlines, precise danger discount was simply 2.5 instances out of 1,000. Lots of of individuals would want to take vitamin D each day for years to forestall a single case of autoimmune illness. Vitamin D can work together with different medicines, and taking excessive quantities of vitamin D can be harmful.

The underside line

Is vitamin D a secure, all-natural surprise drug that may forestall or deal with a litany of illnesses? Based mostly on present analysis that’s not clear but, although I feel it’s greatest to maintain an open thoughts. We could discover vitamin D does little for the common particular person however is extremely useful for others; the trick is determining who’s most definitely to profit. For instance, maybe supplemental vitamin D can be particularly useful for individuals who have a robust household historical past of sure autoimmune illnesses.

Proper now, we’ve the newest chapter within the story of vitamin D. Future analysis could reveal {that a} totally different dose or formulation of vitamin D could be significantly useful. Maybe most significantly, this research and others to come back may present a greater understanding of the function of vitamin D within the growth of autoimmune illnesses.

Comply with me on Twitter @RobShmerling

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