The research, published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal, aimed to build on emerging data that suggests vitamin D supplementation could prolong remission of Crohn's disease (CD) – which is characterised as a lifelong chronic relapsing and remitting gastrointestinal condition characterised by inflammation.
While the exact causes of the condition are unknown; immune, genetic and environmental factors are thought to be involved – and previous research has linked vitamin D status to greater chances of remission and fewer relapses.
The pilot study, led by Professor Maria O'Sullivan and Tara Raftery from St. James's Hospital, Dublin, analysed changes in gut barrier function (determined by intestinal permeability and antimicrobial peptide concentrations) as well as disease markers in CD, in response to vitamin D supplementation – finding that those supplemented with the vitamin were more likely to maintain intestinal permeability, while it deteriorated in the placebo group.
"This is the first reporting of effects of vitamin D supplementation on intestinal permeability and antimicrobial peptide measures in a CD cohort,” said the authors. “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."
In the double-blind randomised placebo-controlled study, the authors assigned 27 CD patients in remission to either receive 2000 IU/day vitamin D supplementation or placebo for 3 months – finding that patients treated with the supplementation were more likely to maintain their intestinal permeability, whereas this deteriorated in the placebo group.
Such increased intestinal permeability is considered a measure of gut leakiness, which is known to predict and precede clinical relapse in Crohn’s.
In addition, patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D had signs of reduced inflammation – as measured by C-reactive protein and antimicrobial peptides - and also reported better quality of life.
Whilst the data is promising, the authors also highlighted that in order to understand its translation into treatment for CD, further larger randomised controlled trials will be required
Source: United European Gastroenterology Journal
Volume 3, Number 3, Pages 294-302, doi: 10.1177/2050640615572176
"Effects of vitamin D supplementation on intestinal permeability, cathelicidin and disease markers in Crohn’s disease: Results from a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study"
Authors: Tara Raftery, et al