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New study in Scotland aims to determine the effects of vitamin D vs UVB on the immune system

Posted on: January 21, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council

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Researchers out of Scotland are launching a new study aimed at improving immune function and health for those living in Scotland.

Research suggests that vitamin D is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin D helps make immune cells smarter and communicate properly. Because of this role in the body, vitamin D may play a hand in some autoimmune diseases.

The high prevalence of immune-mediated diseases in Scotland coupled with the seasonality of disease has prompted researchers out of Aberdeen University to launch a new study looking at the effects of vitamin D and ultraviolet-B light on the immune system.

Scotland sits at a high northern latitude, meaning that during most of the year, the angle of the sun prevents adequate vitamin D production through the skin. People living in Scotland, therefore, are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency for most of the year.

The research team is seeking 50 healthy volunteers over the age of 16 who are not currently taking vitamin D, are not allergic to the sun, and are able to travel to the research site. The participants will be randomized to receive either a vitamin D supplement or UVB light therapy.

“The problem with being so far north of the equator is the lack of sunlight and there is a seasonal incidence with certain diseases which increases the further you are from the equator,” said Dr. Anthony Ormerod of the research team. “We’re hoping our study will point us towards a way in which we could help improve the health of the community. It’s about looking at preventative medicine to help with the disadvantage of not getting enough sun during the winter months.”

Dr. Helen Macdonald, another member of the research team, stated, “We want to see whether vitamin D or artificial UVB light can counter the problem of lack of sunlight and improve our health. Vitamin D is important for bones and vitamin D deficiency has also been linked with cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.”

“Volunteers will be randomized to get either vitamin D tablets containing the same levels that you get in vitamins you buy over-the-counter, or they will be given light therapy,” Dr. Macdonald said about the study design. “Those getting UVB will be given doses that are the same level you would get on a sunny day in Aberdeen during the summer.”

Those potentially interested in volunteering can find out more information by calling 01224 438060.

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