Vitamin D May Bolster Immune System

Vitamin D deficiency linked to inflammation in older adults

(RxWiki News) Sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D may play an important role in keeping older adults healthy, according to one new study.

The researchers found a strong association between low levels of vitamin D and key signs of a weakened immune system in the elderly.

The authors of this study noted that their findings may help identify new treatments for patients with some diseases related to the immune system.

"Learn which foods are good sources of vitamin D."

This study was led by Mary Ward, PhD, of the University of Ulster in Coleraine, UK.

Dr. Ward and colleagues studied 957 Irish adults who were at least 60 years old. These researchers examined the participants' vitamin D levels and looked for signs of inflammation, a possible indicator of immunity problems.

The research team used data from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) ageing group study, a large study of elderly Irish adults recruited for the study between 2009 and 2011.

The researchers looked at blood tests to see if there was an association between vitamin D deficiency and the inflammatory markers IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), which may signal immune system dysfunction.

The data showed that participants who were vitamin D deficient were more likely to have high levels of IL-6 and CRP.

“Our data suggest vitamin D may be involved in maintaining the health of the immune system as well as the skeletal system,” said Dr. Ward in a press statement. “This study is the first to find a connection between vitamin D levels and inflammation in a large sample of older individuals.”

The authors of this study noted that the association between vitamin D and the inflammatory markers could have potential health benefits for people with conditions such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

“The results indicate immune function may be compromised in older individuals with vitamin D deficiency,” Dr. Ward said. “Ensuring older individuals have optimal vitamin D levels may be a way to boost immune function in this population, but this needs to be confirmed through additional studies.”

Dr. Ward and colleagues acknowledged that low vitamin D could be the result of inflammation associated with the progression of disease rather than the disease itself.

This study was published February 25 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

This research was funded by the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning and the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine Health Research Board.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
February 25, 2014