Vitamin D Shown to Activate Immune Fighting Genes

According to a new study, Vitamin D plays an even bigger role in health than previously thought. Researchers have discovered that Vitamin D activation occurs in the cells that line the lungs, setting off a cascade of events that boosts immunity through the activation of immune fighting genes.

The study, from the University of Iowa, published this month in the Journal of Immunology, shows that epithelial cells in the airways convert Vitamin D to the useful form, 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. The result is more active Vitamin D in the body to fight infection and boost immunity. The study authors say, “Primary epithelial cells generate active vitamin D, which then influences the expression of vitamin D-driven genes that play a major role in host defense”. The research team found that Vitamin D could mediate inflammation caused by infection.

Gary Hunninghake, M.D., Professor of internal medicine, and the study's senior author says, "Controlling inflammation through vitamin D is good because too much inflammation can cause problems such as sepsis and seems to contribute to autoimmune disease." In addition the researchers found that Vitamin D production increases proteins in the body that attack bacteria.

Recent recommendations suggest that children and adults increase their daily intake of Vitamin D, through supplements. People living in Northern latitudes are especially prone to Vitamin D insufficiency, as are most of us given the scarcity of Vitamin D from food sources. Vitamin D from sunshine is a concern for the development of skin cancer.

Children should receive 400IU of Vitamin E daily. Adult doses are still being studied, but may be as high as 800 to 1000IU daily.

If you haven't taken the role of Vitamin D seriously, you may be missing out on some definite health benefits. Consider adding a supplement with Vitamin D as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The Journal of Immunology, 2008, 181: 7090-7099.

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