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Potential immune benefits of strong vitamin D status, says randomized controlled trial

Posted on: March 20, 2013   by  Vitamin D Council


Improvement in vitamin D levels will significantly affect expression of genes that have a wide variety of important functions linked to cancer, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease, according to research published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

This randomized, double-blind, pilot trial involved vitamin D supplementation of 400 IUs or 2000 IUs vitamin D3 every day for 2 months in 8 healthy adults. White blood cell samples were collected at baseline and again at the end of the two month study. The researchers conducted a gene expression analysis on the samples to see if their activity changed as a result of the supplementation.

At the end of the study, the group supplementing with 2000 IUs/day achieved a vitamin D status of 34 ng/ml, while the 400 IU/day achieved 25 ng/ml. The authors found that among participants with an increase in vitamin D status, there was a 1.5 fold alteration in the expression of 291 genes. Further analysis revealed that the biologic functions associated with the 291 genes are related to 160 biologic pathways linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders.

“There was a significant difference in the expression of 66 genes between subjects at baseline with vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D<20 ng/ml) and subjects with a 25(OH)D>20 ng/ml. After vitamin D3 supplementation gene expression of these 66 genes was similar for both groups,” the authors explain.

Previous studies have reported associations between vitamin D deficiency and adverse health outcomes. The present study elaborates on the subject and provides evidence that sufficient vitamin D levels play an important role in improving immune health and lowering the risk of disease.

The authors conclude, “This study reveals for the first time molecular finger prints that help explain the nonskeletal health benefits of vitamin D.” They call for further research to confirm their observations.


Hossein-nezhad A, Spira A, Holick MF. Influence of vitamin D status and vitamin D3 supplementation on genome wide expression of white blood cells: A randomized double-blind clinical trial. PLOS ONE. March 20, 2013.

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