Vitamin D supplements may prevent autoimmune diseases

Taking vitamin D supplements can help prevent psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases. This is the conclusion of a randomized controlled trial Vitamin D and Omega-3 testing (LIVES). These types of studies are those that provide the highest level of evidence, but confirmatory studies with different populations are needed.

why is it important

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system retreats, accompanied by inflammation, against the tissues it is supposed to protect. They are the third leading cause of morbidity in the West and one of the leading causes of mortality in women. Autoimmune diseases are chronic diseases whose prevalence increases with age; they incur high social and economic costs in the absence of highly effective treatments.

Vitamin D is currently being studied as a potential treatment for autoimmune diseases. In vitro, the active form of vitamin D or calcitriol (1,25-hydroxyvitamin D) regulates genes involved in inflammation and the acquired and innate immune responses. Animal models of autoimmune diseases have shown beneficial effects of vitamin D, as it can inhibit the development or progression of the disease. Human studies have reported conflicting results. In addition to the potential benefit of vitamin D in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, it is not clear whether vitamin D supplements can prevent the development of autoimmune diseases. This hypothesis has not yet been tested in clinical trials.

Read: Should you take vitamin D for autoimmune diseases?

What the researchers discovered

The VITAL trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The study was conducted to investigate the benefits and risks of vitamin D3 supplementation in the form of cholecalciferol 2000 IU per day and omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil (1 g per day, of which 460 mg eicosapentaenoic acid EPA and 380 mg mg docosahexaenoic acid DHA) for the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease in 25,871 participants (men 50 years and older; women 55 years and older).

The results: People who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily with or without fish oil for just over five years reduced their risk of developing autoimmune disease by 22% compared to those who took a placebo. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation alone did not significantly reduce the incidence of autoimmune diseases. However, when participants with probable autoimmune disease were included, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation reduced autoimmune disease by 18% compared with placebo, and a significant interaction with time was found, suggesting an increased effect after longer supplementation. The researchers will continue to follow the participants for two years to see if this reduction in autoimmune disease risk continues over time.

Vitamin D, like other nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin E or even selenium, is involved in the regulation of the immune system and inflammation. “Vitamin D activates a set of genes involved in the immune system“, says Dr. Karen Costenbader (Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston), co-author of the study. In particular, active vitamin D can modulate the level of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6, suppress the production of autoantibodies by B cells or increase regulatory T cells ( Treg), which have anti-inflammatory properties.

In practice

Part of the population of France, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada, vitamin D deficiency in the cold season, according to several studies. Dr. Costenbader suggests taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D and 1 g of omega-3 as a preventative measure, as in the VITAL study. There are no downsides and many benefits to increasing vitamin D intake in this way, comments Professor Michael Holick (Boston University School of Medicine). Vitamin D3 is the most effective form of preventative supplementation, and daily (or weekly) supplementation is better than high monthly doses.

Before taking supplements, LaNutrition advises considering your personal medical history, as well as the potential benefits and risks of supplements. You can discuss these questions with your healthcare professional.

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