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Available sunlight may relate to risk of common digestive disease

Posted on: November 20, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council


New research published in JAMA Surgery reports an increased risk for diverticulitis and associated complications in regions with low ultraviolet light.

Diverticulitis is a common disease in which small pouches that form in a process known as diverticulosis, typically on the walls of the large intestine, become infected. Roughly 50% of Americans over the age of 60 have diverticulosis, with about 10-25% going on to develop diverticulitis.

A colectomy is a procedure to remove all or part of the colon and is sometimes done to treat diverticulitis and remove the pouches.

Recently, an American research team conducted a study aimed at strengthening past research that suggested a relationship between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of diverticulitis.

Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Since large scale data exists on ultraviolet (UV) light availability, the researchers wanted to know if regions with differing amounts of UV light showed differing rates of hospital admissions for diverticulitis.

They collected information on 226,522 diverticulitis admissions using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database that estimates national hospital inpatient stays. They then connected the hospital locations with data on UV light in those regions.

Areas with high UV light had 668.1 cases of diverticulitis per 100,000 total admissions, compared to 751.8 per 100,000 admissions in areas of low UV light.

In areas with high UV light, 11.5% of patients had a colectomy compared to 13.5% in areas with low UV light.

In line with past research, they found higher rates of diverticulitis in the summer compared to the winter.

“Low UV light exposure is associated with an increased rate of diverticulitis admissions and greater seasonal variation,” the researchers explained.

“Because UV exposure largely determines vitamin D status, these findings support a role for vitamin D in the pathogenesis of diverticulitis.”


Maguire, L. et al. Association of Geographic and Seasonal Variation With Diverticulitis Admissions. JAMA Surgery, 2014.

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