Can vitamin D supplements reduce your risk of chronic inflammation?

Taking regular vitamin D supplements may decrease your risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases, research has found.

Inflammation is a natural response of our bodies to tissue damage, infection or allergens. This acute inflammation is usually a temporary state, lasting only a few days.

However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can persist for months or even years. Like a house guest who’s overstayed their welcome, chronic inflammation causes more harm than good.

Chronic inflammation can be triggered by a variety of factors. These may include an infection that the body fails to clear, long-term exposure to an irritant or foreign material, or an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus.

Lifestyle factors, such as obesity, a diet high in fried, processed and sugary foods, and smoking tobacco, can also contribute to chronic inflammation.

Now, a large-scale study conducted in Ireland has found that older adults who are deficient in vitamin D have higher levels of biomarkers that indicate inflammation.

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, suggests this may be reversible by taking vitamin D supplements.

The study looked at the health data 5381 participants aged 50 and over, measuring blood concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), a particular biomarker closely associated with inflammation.

They also collected demographic data through personal interviews, which included age, sex, education level, smoking status, and rate of alcohol consumption.

The results showed 13 per cent of participants were deficient in vitamin D. Most of those with deficiency were in the oldest group, had lower education, poorer socio-economic status, or were smokers.

The researchers also found high CRP levels in those aged 75 years or over, with lower education, and higher rates of obesity. Those who were less physically active, or had three or more chronic conditions also had higher CRP.

After controlling for other risk factors for inflammation, the researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with higher CRP, indicating higher levels of inflammation.

Should you take a vitamin D supplement?

Humans get almost all of their vitamin D by interacting with sunlight, with very little coming from your diet. But if getting out in the sun is difficult for you, taking a supplement may be the answer.

Dr Eamon Laird, lead author of the study, told Medical News Today he would recommend a daily vitamin D supplement for most people, regardless of age.

“A number of countries and public health agencies recommend vitamin D supplements/intakes for older adults,” he said.

“However, it is not just older adults. Recent research has shown younger adults (18–39 years) are most at risk and have the highest levels of deficiency which long term may contribute to the risk of chronic disease in later life.”

But if you’re already suffering from chronic inflammation, Dr Laird adds, a vitamin D supplement may not be enough.

“Vitamin D is not a magic bullet; it is the combination of the lifestyle medicine approach – physical activity, sleep, non-smoking, alcohol in moderation, healthy nutrition choices – with vitamin D that will give the biggest risk reductions for inflammation.”

Is inflammation a problem for you? How often do you get out in the sun? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: How hot is too hot for the human body?

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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