New research confirms that vitamin D improves immune markers in HIV

Posted on: July 6, 2015   by  John Cannell, MD

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Dr. Nina G. Jablonski and colleagues recently enrolled 100 healthy South African individuals into a study to determine the effects of vitamin D supplementation on HIV-1 proliferation.

Coussens AK, Naude CE, Goliath R, Chaplin G, Wilkinson RJ, Jablonski NG.

High-dose vitamin D3 reduces deficiency caused by low UVB exposure and limits HIV-1 replication in urban Southern Africans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jun 15.

The researchers drew blood during the summer, winter and post-supplementation. After the winter blood draw, half of the subjects were given 50,000 IU vitamin D for six weeks to determine the effects of high-dose oral supplementation on serum vitamin D levels.

The blood samples were infected with HIV-1 outside of the body in order to determine the effect of serum vitamin D status on HIV-1 proliferation.

They also studied various contributors to 25(OH)D status, such as diet, sun-exposure, genetics and various other factors. They found sun-exposure was the largest contributor to 25(OH)D status.

After six weeks of 50,000 IU/week supplementation, the vitamin D group’s white blood cell (WBC) count increased (P = 0.0016), and in particular, their lymphocyte count increased (P = 0.023). In HIV infection, there is a winter trend for macrocytic anemia that was completely absent in the vitamin D group. That is, vitamin D appeared to prevent the anemia that occurs during the winter in HIV patients. The authors also found that vitamin D reduced HIV replication, which is how much the virus reproduces itself. They found that vitamin D suppressed productive HIV-1 infection in peripheral blood cells taken from the patients.

The authors reported that their study,

“…Provides strong evidence for the positive preventative effects of vitamin D supplementation for people with vitamin D deficiency and serious infectious diseases, conditions which apply to many cities in which the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency continues to rise. Furthermore, vitamin D may be a simple, cost-effective intervention, particularly in resource-poor settings, to prevent disease progression in persons infected with HIV-1 by suppressing viral replication, raising peripheral lymphocyte counts, and preventing anemia, potentially prolonging the time to anti-retroviral drug initiation and enhancing the beneficial effects of anti-retroviral drug treatment once initiated.”

If you have HIV infection, take at least 10,000 IU/day and get your vitamin D levels tested to make sure that dose gives you a 25(OH)D blood level of about 80 ng/ml.

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