Vitamin D may exacerbate autoimmune disease

April 8, 2009

Deficiency in vitamin D has been widely regarded as contributing to autoimmune disease, but a review appearing in Autoimmunity Reviews explains that low levels of vitamin D in patients with autoimmune disease may be a result rather than a cause of disease and that supplementing with vitamin D may actually exacerbate autoimmune disease.

Authored by a team of researchers at the California-based non-profit Autoimmunity Research Foundation, the paper goes on to point out that molecular biologists have long known that the form of derived from food and supplements, 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-D), is a secosteroid rather than a vitamin. Like corticosteroid medications, vitamin D may provide short-term relief by lowering but may exacerbate disease symptoms over the long-term.

The insights are based on molecular research showing that 25-D inactivates rather than activates its native receptor - the Vitamin D nuclear receptor or VDR. Once associated solely with calcium metabolism, the VDR is now known to transcribe at least 913 and largely control the innate immune response by expressing the bulk of the body's antimicrobial peptides, natural antimicrobials that target bacteria.

Written under the guidance of professor Trevor Marshall of Murdoch University, Western Australia, the paper contends that 25-D's actions must be considered in light of recent research on the Human Microbiome. Such research shows that bacteria are far more pervasive than previously thought - 90% of cells in the body are estimated to be non-human - increasing the likelihood that are caused by persistent , many of which have yet to be named or have their DNA characterized.

Marshall and team explain that by deactivating the VDR and subsequently the immune response, 25-D lowers the inflammation caused by many of these bacteria but allows them to spread more easily in the long-run. They outline how long-term harm caused by high levels of 25-D has been missed because the bacteria implicated in autoimmune disease grow very slowly. For example, a higher incidence in brain lesions, allergies, and atopy in response to vitamin D supplementation have been noted only after decades of supplementation with the secosteroid.

Furthermore, low levels of 25-D are frequently noted in patients with autoimmune disease, leading to a current consensus that a deficiency of the secosteroid may contribute to the autoimmune disease process. However, Marshall and team explain that these low levels of 25-D are a result, rather than a cause, of the disease process. Indeed, Marshall's research shows that in autoimmune disease, 25-D levels are naturally down-regulated in response to VDR dysregulation by chronic pathogens. Under such circumstances, supplementation with extra vitamin D is not only counterproductive but harmful, as it slows the ability of the immune system to deal with such bacteria.

"Vitamin D is currently being recommended at historically unprecedented doses," states Proal. "Yet at the same time, the rate of nearly every autoimmune disease continues to escalate."

More information: Albert PJ et al. In press. Autoimmunity Reviews. "Vitamin D: The alternative hypothesis."
Full-text preprint:

Source: Autoimmunity Research Foundation

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3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2009
Consider this: Where are autoimmune diseases prevalent? In developed countries, where people spend most of time indoors, therefore preventing sun-skin reaction that manufactures vitamin D. Just pump up the levels of vitamin D and deal with the bugs other ways, maybe with this:
2.4 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2009
Interesting article. So what happens to people w/ an autoimmune diseases that spend a lot of time in the sun but don't take vitamin D3 supplements??? We can hypothesize just like the article does.

Also, it is not clear in the original article nor here whether they are talking about D3 or D2 (the non-animal but only prescription form).

The authors also have come up with new units of measurement; pg/ml instead of the widely used ng/L and pm/ml vs. nm/L. Is this for confusion value or to set themselves apart? The numbers are in fact the same where pg/ml is equivalent to ng/L.

Who funded this study? This could be a smoke screen by the medical industry to try to scare people from taking sufficient D3 supplement because it is already cutting into their bottom line.
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2009
there is no conspiracy. Just controversial science.
Marshall could be onto something. He has helped many people. Google him for tons of info.
not rated yet Jun 16, 2009
units are American!
The research is unbiased, "not for profit", means not funded by pharmaceutical companies.
Look at this more closely.

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