Vitamin D regulates hundreds of genes and dozens of physiological functions in the human body, including those responsible for immune system activity. Scientists from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn have just demonstrated that vitamin D in healthy individuals actually helps maintain a state of balance in immune system cells.
– Vitamin D has long been known to have beneficial effects on human health. In our recent studies, we have confirmed that in healthy individuals, vitamin D stabilises the homeostasis of human immune cells and counteracts molecular stress occurring, for example, due to microbial infection or inflammation – emphasises Dr Julia Jarosławska-Miszkiewicz from the Nutrigenomics Team of the IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.
– Previously, this knowledge was conjectural, we have confirmed for the first time in a study that vitamin D in a healthy body actually regulates biological functions at the cellular level – adds the nutrigenomics scientist, who studies how the foods we eat (nutri-) interacts with all of our genes (- genomics).
The basis for the study was material taken from 25 healthy people – blood drawn before and after taking the recommended monthly dose of vitamin D (80,000 units). The researcher looked at so-called signal transduction pathways in cells. Cell signalling is part of a complex communication system that regulates cell processes and coordinates cell activity.
– A number of genes in cells, including those of the immune system, are responsible for transmitting the appropriate signal from outside or inside the cell to produce the appropriate molecular effect, i.e. to encode proteins accordingly. I carried out an analysis of 16 such major signalling pathways, assessing a number of biochemical reactions through which this process occurs – says the scientist.
Analysis has shown that vitamin D in healthy immune cells in healthy humans modulates these pathways and thus regulates physiological cell functions such as, for example, growth, differentiation, cell migration or the cell’s response to stress factors.
The results of the described research were published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Vitamin D – essential for our health
Vitamin D affects the functioning of the entire body. Its most well-known action is to maintain adequate levels of calcium in the body to maintain normal bone structure. Vitamin D is also important for ‘training’ the immune system so that it works effectively in case of microbial infections, but also does not overreact in case of possible autoimmune reactions. Long-term vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone diseases – rickets in children and osteomalacia (soft bones) in adults. It also causes a malfunction of the immune system, leading to, for example, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases or autoimmune diseases.