A new study has found a link between low levels of vitamin D and conditions causing chronic inflammation.
Inflammation normally supports the healing process following an infection. It increases blood flow to the damaged tissue to deliver blood cells and proteins and remove any unwanted breakdown products or debris. Chronic inflammation occurs when this response remains, leaving your body in a constant state of alert. This condition can be caused by untreated cases of acute inflammation, an autoimmune disorder or long-term exposure to irritants.
Now, world-first genetic research from the University of South Australia shows a connection between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation, providing an important biomarker to identify people at higher risk of severe illnesses causing chronic inflammation.
Can high vitamin D levels reduce chronic inflammation?
The study analysed the genetic data of 294,970 participants in the UK Biobank, using Mendelian randomisation to highlight the association between vitamin D and C-reactive protein levels, an indicator of inflammation.
Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Ang Zhou, outlined that the findings suggest that increasing vitamin D in people with a deficiency may reduce chronic inflammation.
“Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting your tissues if you’ve been injured or have an infection,” Dr Zhou said.
“High levels of C-reactive protein are generated by the liver in response to inflammation, so when your body is experiencing chronic inflammation, it also shows higher levels of C-reactive protein.
“This study examined vitamin D and C-reactive proteins and found a one-way relationship between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of C-reactive protein, expressed as inflammation.
“Boosting vitamin D in people with deficiencies may reduce chronic inflammation, helping them avoid a number of related diseases.”
The importance of avoiding vitamin D deficiency
The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and published the findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The study also discovered that having adequate vitamin D levels may reduce relevant complications from obesity and reduce the risk of chronic inflammation occurring as a result of conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
Senior investigator and Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, said these results are important and provide an explanation for some of the controversies in reported associations with vitamin D.
“We have repeatedly seen evidence for health benefits for increasing vitamin D concentrations in individuals with very low levels, while for others, there appears to be little to no benefit.” Proffesor Hyppönen said.
“These findings highlight the importance of avoiding clinical vitamin D deficiency, and provide further evidence for the wide-ranging effects of hormonal vitamin D.”