Vitamin D Deficiency May Compromise Immune Function

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Vitamin-deficient older adults more likely to have biomarkers for heart disease, inflammation

It appears, albeit without any great surprise based on the many years of vitamin D research that has occurred, that 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). [1]

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.

The scientists involved with this research note that their data suggests vitamin D may be involved in maintaining the health of the immune system as well as the skeletal system, and whilst this would seem a very logical discovery, 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.


Vitamin D status has numerous sequalae, and whilst there may need to further research to qualify all mechanisms, most of us know that older people do not receive enough sunlight, mostly do not take Vit D supplements and as such are at greater risk of infection and other illnesses related to persistent inflammation.

Taking regular blood tests to determine VitD status are worthwhile, or empirical supplementation with at least 1000iu per day throughout the year is recommended, if the winter trip to sunnier shores is just not feasible!


[1] Laird E, McNulty H, Ward M, Hoey L, McSorley E, Wallace JM, Carson E, Molloy AM, Healy M, Casey MC, Cunningham C, Strain JJ. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Inflammation in Older Irish Adults. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Feb 25:jc20133507 View Abstract

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