Vitamin D may reduce the risk of auto-immune diseases

Taking daily vitamin D supplements – or a combination of vitamin D and omega-3 fish oil – may help in lowering the risk of developing autoimmune disease, a new study has found.

The study indicates that vitamin D supplements may help prevent autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis that occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body.

“This study of more than 25,000 older adults in the U.S. provides evidence that daily supplementation with 2,000 IU/day vitamin D or a combination of vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids for five years reduces autoimmune disease incidence, with more pronounced effects found after two years of supplementation,” the study authors wrote.

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. These diseases include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

More than 24 million people in the United States live with an autoimmune disease. Another 8 million people have autoantibodies in their blood, which indicates they have a chance of developing an autoimmune disease. The exact causes of autoimmune diseases remain unknown, but they are likely due to a combination of factors.

Dr. Marilyn Tan, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, said the findings of the study are promising. “There really isn’t a lot pharmacologically that we can strongly recommend for disease prevention. In these cases, certainly, we talk about stress reduction and living a healthy lifestyle and all of that to try to prevent any worsening of autoimmune disease. But there really isn’t a medicine that has been proven to decrease the progression,” Tan said.

But experts say more research across broader populations needs to be undertaken to confirm if vitamin D reduces autoimmune risk in different groups. “The majority of autoimmune diseases occur in women of childbearing age, so much younger than ages 50 and 55. So I think it would be interesting to see whether the same results would be found if they looked at a younger population of patients, a population of patients who are more likely to get an autoimmune disease,” Dr. Elizabeth Volkmann, the director of the UCLA Scleroderma Program said.

(Courtesy: Health Line)

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