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Chronic Inflammation? You Could Be Low on Vitamin D

New genetic research shows a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation, providing an important biomarker to identify people at higher risk of or severity of chronic illnesses with an inflammatory component.

Inflammation is actually an essential part of the body’s healing process. However, when it persists, it can contribute to a wide range of complex diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases.

Now, world-first genetic research shows a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation. This finding provides an important biomarker to identify people at higher risk of or severity of chronic illnesses with an inflammatory component.

The study, from the University of South Australia (UniSA), examined the genetic data of 294 ,970 participants in the UK Biobank. It used Mendelian randomization to show the association between vitamin D and C-reactive protein levels, an indicator of inflammation.

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There’s a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation.

UniSA’s Dr. Ang Zhou, lead researcher, says the findings suggest that boosting 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 says.

“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 study also raises the possibility that having adequate vitamin D concentrations may mitigate complications arising from obesity and reduce the risk or severity of chronic illnesses with an inflammatory component, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Professor Elina Hyppönen, senior investigator and Director of UniSA’s Australian Center for Precision Health, says 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.” Prof Hyppönen says.

“These findings highlight the importance of avoiding clinical vitamin D deficiency, and provide further evidence for the wide-ranging effects of hormonal vitamin D.”

Reference: “Vitamin D deficiency and C-reactive protein: a bidirectional Mendelian randomization study” by Ang Zhou and Elina Hyppönen, 17 May 2022, International Journal of Epidemiology.
DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyac087

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