Vitamin D supplementation over five years is linked to lower autoimmune disease risk of 22 percent, a study reveals.
Inflammatory disorders such as thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and polymyalgia rheumatica are examples of autoimmune diseases (AD).
AD can lead to life-threatening complications and death as currently there are no cures for AD and only a few treatments seem to be effective.
However, past research has highlighted that vitamin D and omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acid supplements may benefit many patients with these conditions.
A study called ‘VITAL’ assessed 25,871 participants to see whether supplementation of vitamin D or omega-3 or a combination of these two have any impact on reducing AD rates.
Participants were divided into different groups; receiving either 2,000 IU vitamin D3 or 1,000 mg of fish oil a day or a combination of both.
The fish oil capsule contained 460 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 380 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The research team found that those who received vitamin D with fish oil or vitamin D alone were less likely to develop AD.
Dr Karen Costenbader, the study’s senior author, said:
“This is the first direct evidence we have that daily supplementation may reduce AD incidence, and what looks like more pronounced effect after two years of supplementation for vitamin D.
Now, when my patients, colleagues, or friends ask me which vitamins or supplements I’d recommend they take to reduce risk of autoimmune disease, I have new evidence-based recommendations for women age 55 years and older and men 50 years and older.
I suggest vitamin D 2000 IU a day and marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), 1000 mg a day—the doses used in VITAL.”
The results show that 5 years vitamin D supplementation reduced autoimmune disease by 22 percent in patients with AD.
Whereas supplementation of fish oil with or without vitamin D reduced the AD rate by only 15 percent.
Dr Jill Hahn, the study’s first author, said:
“Autoimmune diseases are common in older adults and negatively affect health and life expectancy.
Until now, we have had no proven way of preventing them, and now, for the first time, we do.
It would be exciting if we could go on to verify the same preventive effects in younger individuals.”
The study was published in BMJ (Hahn et al., 2021).