Vitamin D has been at the center of many medical research studies over the past couple of years. Probably the most important benefit scientists have identified is its apparent ability to mitigate the body’s inflammatory response. The inflammation connection is particularly important because so many medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease and auto-immune diseases are tied to inflammation. While this benefit is important, a precise mechanism for it had yet to be identified, until now.
In a study* whose results were recently published in The Journal of Immunology, researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver identified a molecular pathway through which Vitamin D inhibits inflammation.
For the study, Dr. Elena Goleva, professor of pediatrics and her associates cultured human white blood cells with varying amounts of Vitamin D or no Vitamin D before exposing them to lipopolysaccharide, a pro-inflammatory compound. They found that cells incubated without Vitamin D or with a reduced concentration of 15 nanograms per milliliter produced high amounts of the cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), both of which are involved in the inflammatory response. However, white blood cells that received concentrations of 30 nanograms per milliliter or more of Vitamin D, which is a level considered by some researchers to be sufficient when measured in the bloodstream, had a decreased inflammatory response, with 50 nanograms per milliliter Vitamin D resulting in the greatest reduction. Another remarkable thing the research team observed that Vitamin D treatment up-regulated the expression of (MAPK) phosphatase-1, a compound that interferes with inflammation.
"This study goes beyond previous associations of Vitamin D with various health outcomes," stated Dr Goleva. "It outlines a clear chain of cellular events, from the binding of DNA, through a specific signaling pathway, to the reduction of proteins known to trigger inflammation. Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, arthritis and prostate cancer, who are Vitamin D deficient, may benefit from Vitamin D supplementation to get their serum Vitamin D levels above 30 nanograms/milliliter."