Healthy living * Allergies and hay fever

Vitamin D could help fight Crohn's disease

cod liver oil is a source of vitamin D Lack of sunshine could be a factor

A new study has found that Vitamin D could help treat Crohn's disease, a condition for which there is no known cure.

Crohn's disease produces inflammation of the intestine, and is linked to both genetic and environmental factors.

But while investigating how Vitamin D can help fight cancer, researchers stumbled on the fact that it also plays a vital part in the immune system.

As Crohn's disease is a form of auto-immune disease in which the body's defences fail to deal with bacteria invading the gut, the scientists decided to investigate the effect of Vitamin D on this process.

The leader of the study, John White of McGill University in Canada, commented: "Our data suggests, for the first time, that Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn's disease". Interestingly, sunlight is a major source of Vitamin D for the body, and Crohn's disease is known to be more prevalent in northern countries where there are fewer hours of sunlight.

Dr White and his team found that Vitamin D acts directly on genes which alert cells to the presence of invading microbes. These genes have been linked to Crohn's disease. If they are deficient or defective, they cannot combat invaders in the intestinal tract.

Dr White suggests that people with brothers or sisters with the disease might wish to take Vitamin D supplements as a precaution: "It's something that's easy to do, because they can simply go to a pharmacy and buy Vitamin D supplements. The vast majority of people would be candidates for Vitamin D treatment."

Vitamin D is readily available in over the counter supplements and in cod liver oil.

However, it should be noted that when taken in excess Vitamin D can be toxic, so please consult your doctor or pharmacist before following this advice.

The results are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

This article was published on Thu 28 January 2010

Image © Mara Zemgaliete -

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