Low Vitamin D Levels May be Linked to Lupus

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by Kara Elam |

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A recently published study led by Australian researchers from Monash University in Victoria has shown an association between Vitamin D levels and Lupus (SLE) disease activity. The study entitled, “Association of low vitamin D with high disease activity in an Australian systemic lupus erythematosus cohort,” was published in the latest edition of Lupus Science & Medicine.

About Lupus

SLE is a dynamic immune disorder that occurs when antigens become unable to differentiate between self and pathogenic foreign invaders, resulting in the development of dysfunctional antibodies that damage organs including the skin, joints, brain and kidney. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SLE affects women more often than men (9 out of 10 patients are women). There are many potential devastating consequences of an SLE diagnosis including kidney disease, nervous system involvement (seizures, memory loss, headaches) and heart disease (heart attacks, strokes).

Recently, there has been increased scientific interest into the possible link between SLE and Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in many of the body’s immunological processes such as T-cell function and inflammatory mediation. It is possible that a causal relationship between SLE and Vitamin D deficiency exists.

This Study

For this study, investigators analyzed the vitamin D levels of 119 SLE patients who attended the Monash Medical Centre Lupus Clinic between 2007 and 2013.

The aims of the study were to:

  • Calculate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the patient sample
  • Understand the relationship between disease activity and vitamin D deficiency in this cohort.
  • Ascertain whether vitamin D supplementation is associated with increases in vitamin D and whether this in turn is associated with reduced disease activity.

The results from the patient’s analysis showed that there was a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, with over a quarter of the patients (27.7%) having vitamin D levels that were considered to be deficient.

In a University press release about the study’s findings, Dr. Kristy Yap, SLE Clinical Fellow and lead study author, stated, “We found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in our cohort. Significantly, over a quarter of our patients recorded low vitamin D levels, keeping with reports from other parts of the world, including Asia and Europe.”

Her colleague Dr Alberta Hoi, Head of the Monash Lupus Clinic and chief investigator in the Lupus and Arthritis Research Group, shared her enthusiasm but stated that “future studies should include randomized trials which focus on the clinical effect of vitamin D supplementation in lupus.”