Canadian researchers have found that vitamin D may be able to combat and even prevent symptoms related to Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder associated with diarrhea, intestinal pain and weight loss.
The study, conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center, was originally designed to investigate the nutrient’s ability to treat cancer cells, but scientists discovered that vitamin D had a beneficial effect on two genes associated with inflammatory bowel disorders.
Lead researcher John White and his colleagues found that vitamin D supplementation forced a reaction in the beta defensin 2 and NOD2 genes, which alert cells to the presence of invading microbes. If NOD2 is deficient or defective, the gene cannot combat microbial attacks in the intestinal tract.
"This discovery is exciting, since it shows how an over-the-counter supplement such as vitamin D could help people defend themselves against Crohn’s disease," says study collaborator Marc Servant.
The next step for the team is to conduct clinical trials with human participants suffering from the intestinal disorder.
Separate studies have also suggested that vitamin D can help prevent heart disease and certain forms of cancer.