The importance of vitamin D has been noted in this blog previously (Common to be “D-ficient” ). Now a study implicates vitamin D as a risk factor for developing inflammatory bowel disease, especially for Crohn’s disease (Gastroenterology 2012: 142: 482-89). It is known that vitamin D influences innate immunity. As such, it may play a role in the susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (CD) and Ulcerative colitis (UC).
This prospective study included 72,719 women (age 40-73) enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. Research subjects completed an assessment of diet and lifestyle along with 25-hydroxy vitamin D [25(OH)D] levels. The 25(OH)D levels were predicted; this prediction was based on a validated model which included vitamin D intake, sun exposure, race, and body mass index (J Natl Cancer Inst 2006; 98: 451-9). This model was validated against directly measured 25(OH)D levels.
During nearly 1.5 million person-years of followup, 122 incident cases of CD and 123 cases of UC occurred. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for the highest quartile of 25(OH)D was 0.54 for CD and 0.65 for UC compared to the lowest quartile. Compared with a level less than 20, the highest quartile HR was 0.38 for CD and 0.57 for UC.
In addition, the authors identified a significant inverse association between dietary supplemental vitamin D and UC; an insignificant reduction in CD risk was noted with dietary intake. Although it is difficult to determine causality, these data convincingly show that ‘healthy’ levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of IBD.