Inflammation is a natural process by which the body heals itself when there is an injury or infection, but too much inflammation can lead to long-term chronic conditions such as heart disease or autoimmune diseases. A new study from the University of South Australia shows there is a direct link between low vitamin D levels and high levels of inflammation.
These findings provide health professionals an important biomarker to help identify people who may be at higher risk of developing one or more chronic illnesses tied to excess inflammation.
Scientists looked at the genetic data of nearly 300,000 people in the UK Biobank, a collection of study participants whose health data is being used across a wide range of trials. Researchers found a direct association between low vitamin D levels and high C-reactive protein totals, which is are an indicator of excess inflammation.
"Inflammation is your body's way of protecting your tissues if you've been injured or have an infection," said lead researcher Dr. Ang Zhou. "High levels of C-reactive protein are generated by the liver in response to inflammation, so when your body is experiencing chronic inflammation, it also shows higher levels of C-reactive protein."
Dr. Zhou went on to say, "This study examined vitamin D and C-reactive proteins and found a one-way relationship between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of C-reactive protein, expressed as inflammation," he explained. "Boosting vitamin D in people with deficiencies may reduce chronic inflammation, helping them avoid a number of related diseases."
Researchers published their findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology and say the results of the study seem to indicate adequate vitamin D levels may be the key to helping mitigate the complications that come with obesity. They also have the ability to reduce the chances of chronic illnesses associated with high inflammation such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and others.
"We have repeatedly seen evidence for health benefits for increasing vitamin D concentrations in individuals with very low levels, while for others, there appears to be little to no benefit," said senior investigator Elina Hyppönen. "These findings highlight the importance of avoiding clinical vitamin D deficiency, and provide further evidence for the wide-ranging effects of hormonal vitamin D."