Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Health News

Study uncovers new links between vitamin D and immune system health

Researchers say levels of the vitamin could predict the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease

Photo
Photo (c) Michail Petrov - Fotolia
Health experts have long lauded vitamin D as being beneficial to the body, causing many consumers to buy it up in huge amounts. Now, a new study has uncovered its effects on the immune system.

According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh, vitamin D was found to be critical in influencing certain cells in the immune system, and it could explain why some people are susceptible to autoimmune diseases.

“Low vitamin D status has long [been] implicated as a significant risk factor for the development of several autoimmune diseases,” said researcher Richard Mellanby. “Our study reveals one way in which vitamin D metabolites can dramatically influence the immune system.”

What’s at risk

To see how vitamin D affects the immune system, the researchers looked at cells of both mice and humans.

They were most interested in seeing if the vitamin played a role in dendritic cells’ ability to activate T cells. Dendritic cells serve as messengers throughout the immune system, and they work primarily to ensure that the immune system -- and T cells -- are responding properly.

If T cells aren’t activated or working as designed, the immune system can’t fight off threats. Additionally, if there is an autoimmune disease, T cells play a different role entirely, as they start to attack the body.

The researchers found that vitamin D plays a rather crucial role in dendritic cells’ ability to activate T cells. When vitamin D was present, the process was hindered by excess production of a molecule known as CD31. This, in turn, affected the way the immune system responded to potential infection.

The researchers hope that these findings shed some light on how vitamin D can play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, and how vitamin D affects the immune system at large.

Finding the right balance

Vitamin D continues to make headlines. As more research is done on the subject, experts are discovering the powers of the popular supplement.

On the one hand, vitamin D has been found to help alleviate pain and redness from sunburn, improve exercise ability, and even play in a role in children’s development. However, researchers have also found that too much vitamin D can increase consumers’ risk of colorectal cancer and kidney failure.

Take a Quiz

Get matched with an Accredited Partner

Share your comments

Get the news you need delivered to you

Sign up to receive our free weekly newsletter. We value your privacy. Unsubscribe easily.

You’re signed up

We’ll start sending you the news you need delivered straight to you. We value your privacy. Unsubscribe easily.