Scientists from Harvard University found vitamin D and omega-3 fats may help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.
More than 80 diseases occur as a result of the immune system attacking the body’s own organs, tissues, and cells.
Some of the more common autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Although the causes of many autoimmune diseases remain unknown, a person’s genes in combination with infections and other environmental exposures are likely to play a significant role in disease development.
Omega-3 fats provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.
Vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone our bodies make. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both are critical for building bone.
Vitamin D may also reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation.
In the current study, researchers aimed to examine whether vitamin D and marine-derived long-chain omega-3 fatty acids reduce autoimmune disease risk.
They examined more than 25,000 adults, including 12 786 men ≥50 years and 13 085 women ≥55 years at enrollment.
These people received Vitamin D (2000 IU/day) or matched placebo, and omega 3 fatty acids (1000 mg/day) or matched placebo.
Participants self-reported autoimmune diseases from the beginning to 5 years of follow-up and these diseases were confirmed by extensive medical record review.
The researchers found that for the vitamin D supplementation, 123 people in the treatment group and 155 in the placebo group had a confirmed autoimmune disease
For the omega-3 fatty acids supplementation, 130 participants in the treatment group and 148 in the placebo group had a confirmed autoimmune disease.
Compared with the reference arm (vitamin D placebo and omega 3 fatty acid placebo; 88 with confirmed autoimmune disease), 63 participants who received vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids, 60 who received only vitamin D, and 67 who received only omega 3 fatty acids had confirmed autoimmune disease.
Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that vitamin D supplementation for five years, with or without omega-3 fatty acids, reduced autoimmune disease risk by 22%.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation with or without vitamin D reduced the autoimmune disease rate by 15%. Both treatments showed larger effects than the control groups.
The research was published in The BMJ and conducted by Jill Hahn et al.
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