Vitamin D is an important nutrient that is responsible for a lot of different functions, such as improving muscle strength, strengthening bones, boosting the body’s immune system, and sending messages between the body and the brain.
Now, recent research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital has discovered that people who took a vitamin D supplement and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement had less of a chance of developing an autoimmune disease.
Since this essential fatty acid and vitamin have been shown to lower inflammation while also increasing immunity, the medical team gathered a diverse group of 25,871 adults with an avg. age of 67. The volunteers were directed to consume a daily vitamin D supplement that had 2,000 International Units (IU), along with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement with 1,000 mg. Some of the participants were given a placebo or two.
During the five-year study, the volunteers were told to report if they had developed an autoimmune disease, a disease where the immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy tissues, cells, and organs by mistake. These includes diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, polymyalgia rheumatica and psoriasis, among others.
Their findings from the study, which were released in the journal BMJ, discovered that the vitamin D group showed a lower risk of autoimmune disease by up to 22%. Interestingly, the vitamin D group had also reported 39% less autoimmune cases during the last three years of the study.
“It is exciting to have these positive and new results for nontoxic supplements and vitamins preventing potentially highly morbid diseases,” says Karen Costenbader, MD. “This is the first direct evidence we have that daily supplementation might reduce autoimmune disease occurrences, and what seems like more pronounced effect after just two years of supplementation for vitamin D.”
“The best way you can get vitamin D directly from the sunlight, but this is made more difficult by winter hours,” she says. “Also, individuals who have darker toned skin are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency because they have more melanin— a pigment that lowers the skin’s ability to procure vitamin D from the sun—in their skin.”
Minimal food options are another problem behind lower vitamin D levels. “The truth isn’t many foods are excellent sources of vitamin D, making it one reason why vitamin D has been a nutrient of public health concern,” Gorin said.
However, along with consuming a daily supplement, Gorin highlights three foods that are packed with vitamin D, beginning with fatty fish. “Salmon is a great source of vitamin D providing 570 IU vitamin D each 3-ounce cooked serving,” she said.
Plus, there is good news for mushroom lovers as well: “A half-cup of maitake mushrooms offers 393 IU while the same amount of UV-grown white mushrooms provides 366 IU,” Gorin says.
A third vitamin D-rich food is actually a drink. Cow’s milk, as well as soy milk, have been fortified with vitamin D and provide 120 IU per one-cup serving, she said.