An international team led by researchers at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, recently reported that vitamin D may have a beneficial impact on the intestinal barrier dysfunction associated with Crohn’s disease. The study was published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal and is titled “Effects of vitamin D supplementation on intestinal permeability, cathelicidin and disease markers in Crohn’s disease: Results from a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study.”
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive tract that can cause fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, malnutrition, and weight loss. The disorder can reduce the patient’s quality of life, and is estimated to affect 3 in every 1,000 people in North America and Europe. There is no current cure for Crohn’s disease and its exact cause is unknown, although genetic, immune and environmental factors are thought to play a role.
It has been suggested that vitamin D supplements may be able to induce a prolonged remission in Crohn’s disease patients; however, its clinical efficacy and mechanism of action remain poorly explained. In the study, researchers evaluated the changes in intestinal permeability, antimicrobial peptide concentrations, and disease biomarkers in Crohn’s disease patients in response to vitamin D supplementation. An increase in intestinal permeability is considered a measure of gut leakiness, which has been shown to be a predictor of clinical relapse in Crohn’s disease.
The team conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 27 patients with Crohn’s disease in remission. Patients received either 2000 IU/day vitamin D supplementation or a placebo for 3 months.
Researchers found that patients who received vitamin D were more likely to maintain their intestinal permeability, while patients in the placebo group experienced an increase in intestinal permeability. Interestingly, patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D showed signs of reduced inflammation, assessed by C-reactive protein and antimicrobial peptide levels, and reported a better quality of life.
“This is the first reporting of effects of vitamin D supplementation on intestinal permeability and antimicrobial peptide measures in a CD [Crohn’s disease] cohort. Whilst the data requires further confirmation, it broadly supports evidence from previous experimental studies that suggest a role for vitamin D in maintaining intestinal barrier integrity,” concluded the research team according to a news release. The authors suggest that further studies based on larger randomized controlled trials should be conducted to better understand how these findings can be translated into a therapy for Crohn’s disease.
“This is an exciting development in the treatment of Crohn’s disease and we welcome anything new that could potentially help patients with this debilitating condition” said Dr. Charles Murray, an inflammatory bowel disease expert from the Royal Free Hospital in London, United Kingdom.