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Vitamin D Deficiency Associated With Altered Immune Cell Function

According to recent research, blood levels of vitamin D may actually affect genes that can lead to illness. Specifically, researchers found an association between vitamin D deficiency (defined as less than 37.5 nmol/l) and altered expression of genes related to immunity.

The study included blood samples from 218 Norwegian women. The researchers found that the following two gene pathways related to immunity were more highly expressed in participants who were vitamin D deficient:

1. TLR signaling – a major pathway that governs the inflammatory response to infection

2. IL-1R pathway – increases the migration of leukocytes to sites of infection

Leukocytes are the white blood cells that fight against infectious diseases, but too many can be a sign of disease.

The researchers also found that cytokines and chemokines were also altered based on vitamin D levels. Cykotines are secreted by the cells of the immune system and carry signals between cells. Chemokines are a protein that is pro-inflammatory and recruits cells of the immune system to the site of an infection. Inappropriate utilization of cykotines and chemokines can contribute to or cause many inflammatory diseases and cancer.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Tromso in Norway. It was published online ahead of print on March 6, 2013, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Previous studies have shown vitamin D to be associated with improved kidney health, reductions in the risk of skin cancer, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, combating diabetes, and improving age related eye degeneration.

Vitamin D can be found in milk, fortified cereals, fish, and eggs. Your body also processes vitamin D from the sun but it becomes harder for our bodies to process it as we age. A high quality vitamin D supplement is always a good option if you feel that you’re not getting enough through diet and sun.

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