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News - Vitamin D may protect against Crohn's Disease

By Holly Taylor BSc(Hons) DipCNM MBANT

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects approximately one in every 400 people. While there is no cure, treatments focus on controlling the inflammation, relieving symptoms and prolonging remission time.

The condition is thought to stem from a problem with the immune system that causes an inflammatory response to the bacteria living in the gut. Now, results from Canada suggest that low levels of vitamin D, which is important for the immune system, may increase the risk of developing Crohn’s disease.

The scientists looked at the effects of vitamin D on two genes linked to Crohn’s disease. The beta defensin 2 gene is important for producing substances that fight microbes, while the NOD2 gene helps to alert the immune system to detect the presence of invaders.

During the study, the researchers discovered that if the NOD2 gene is deficient or defective, which is common in Crohn’s disease, the sufferer may have more difficulty tackling invaders in the intestinal tract. More importantly, they found that vitamin D is central to switching on the genes and, therefore, may help reduce the risk of Crohn’s.

The scientists concluded their paper by saying: “Siblings of patients with Crohn’s disease that haven’t yet developed the disease might be well advised to make sure they’re vitamin D sufficient.” 

Article References

T. T. Wang et al. (2010) Direct and indirect induction by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 of the NOD2/CARD15-beta defensin 2 innate immune pathway defective in Crohn’s disease. Journal of Biological Chemistry. Volume 285. pp. 2227-2231.

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