Vitamin D deficiency may compromise immune function

February 25, 2014

Washington, DC--Older individuals who are vitamin D deficient also tend to have compromised immune function, according to new research accepted for publication in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Vitamin D plays an important role in helping the body absorb calcium needed for healthy bones. The skin naturally produces vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. People also obtain smaller amounts of the vitamin through foods, such as milk fortified with vitamin D. More than 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to have deficient levels of vitamin D due to limited sunshine exposure.

"Our data suggest vitamin D may be involved in maintaining the health of the immune system as well as the skeletal system," said one of the study's authors, Mary Ward, PhD, of the University of Ulster in Coleraine, U.K. "This study is the first to find a connection between vitamin D levels and inflammation in a large sample of older individuals."

The observational study of 957 Irish adults who were at least 60 years old examined vitamin D levels as well as biomarkers of inflammation. Participants who were vitamin D deficient were more likely to have high levels of these biomarkers, which are linked to cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

"The results indicate immune function may be compromised in older individuals with vitamin D deficiency," Ward said. "Ensuring older individuals have optimal vitamin D levels may be a way to boost immune function in this population, but this needs to be confirmed through additional studies."
-end-
Other authors of the study include: E. Laird and A.M. Molloy of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland; H. McNulty, L. Hoey, E. McSorley, J.M.W. Wallace, E. Carson and J.J. Strain of the University of Ulster; and M. Healy, M. Casey and C. Cunningham of St. James's Hospital in Dublin.

The study, "Vitamin D Deficiency is Associated with Inflammation in Older Irish Adults," was published online, ahead of print.

Founded in 1916, the Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Today, the Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 17,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in more than 100 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Washington, DC. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at http://www.endocrine.org. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/EndoMedia.

The Endocrine Society

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