More Good News About Vitamin D

A new study links vitamin D to better immunity and disease prevention.

We'll take just one of these right now. Sun illustration via Shutterstock

We’ll take just one of these right now. Sun illustration via Shutterstock

We’ve reported on the health benefits of vitamin D, like lowering blood pressure and keeping bones strong, and now there’s more good news. New research from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) says increasing vitamin D levels—which can be done either by synthesizing it from sun exposure or ingesting it into the bloodstream—improves immunity and plays a role in preventing cancer and cardiovascular, autoimmune, and infectious diseases. This finding builds upon previous studies linking vitamin D deficiency to those problems.

The study, published online in the journal PLOS ONE, examined eight people who had low vitamin D levels but were otherwise healthy. Three members of the group were given 400 international units (IUs) of vitamin D every day for two months, and the remaining five were given 2,000 IUs a day. By the end of the two months, the individuals in the 2,000 IUs group had healthy vitamin D levels, while the other participants still had low vitamin D levels.

The researchers carefully analyzed each individual’s gene expression throughout the course of the study to see if vitamin D levels had an effect on gene activity, and they found that 291 genes experienced “statistically significant alterations.” And, the researchers found, those 291 genes are linked to the biological pathways related to cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, and infectious disease, leading them to believe that maintaining strong vitamin D levels could help with prevention and immunity. In a report about the findings, study author Michael F. Holick says:

“This study reveals the molecular fingerprints that help explain the non-skeletal health benefits of vitamin D,” said Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at BUSM and leading vitamin D expert who served as the study’s corresponding author. “While a larger study is necessary to confirm our observations, the data demonstrates that improving vitamin D status can have a dramatic effect on gene expression in our immune cells and may help explain the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk for CVD [cardiovascular disease], cancer and other diseases.”

As the studies linking vitamin D to better health keep pouring in, we have only one thing to say: Spring sunshine, please hurry up.

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