SATURDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D supplements may
help those with Crohn's disease overcome the fatigue and decreased
muscle strength associated with the inflammatory bowel disease,
according to new research.
Extra vitamin D "was associated with significantly less
physical, emotional and general fatigue, greater quality of life
and the ability to perform activities of daily living," said Tara
Raftery, a research dietitian and doctoral candidate at Trinity
College Dublin. She is scheduled to present the findings Saturday
at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Raftery and her colleagues evaluated 27 patients who had Crohn's
in remission. (Even in remission, fatigue and quality of life can
be problematic.) The patients were assigned to take either 2,000
IUs (international units) of vitamin D a day or a dummy vitamin for
Before and after the study, the researchers measured hand-grip
strength, fatigue, quality of life and blood levels of vitamin
"Hand-grip strength is a proxy measure of muscle function," Raftery said. "Muscle function has been known to be reduced in Crohn's disease."
Besides boosting bone growth and remodeling, vitamin D is
thought to improve neuromuscular and immune function, reduce
inflammation and help with other bodily tasks. Children and adults
aged 1 year to 70 are advised to get 600 IUs a day; older adults,
800, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Vitamin D is found in fatty fish such as salmon, in smaller
amounts in cheese, egg yolks and beef liver, and in fortified foods
such as milk.
Sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is also
produced when the sun's rays strike the skin.
Crohn's can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but
most commonly affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning
of the colon. Symptoms vary, but may include persistent diarrhea,
rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, and pain and constipation. About
700,000 Americans are affected, according to the Crohn's &
Colitis Foundation of America.
Its cause is not well understood, but Crohn's is thought to
involve heredity and environmental factors. Experts believe that in
those with Crohn's, the immune system attacks harmless intestinal
bacteria, triggering chronic inflammation and, eventually, the
The daily vitamin D supplement benefitted participants in many
ways, Raftery found. "When levels of vitamin D peaked at 30 ng/mL
(75 nmol/L) or more [a level considered healthy], muscle function
in both the dominant and non-dominant hands were significantly
higher than in those who had levels less than 30 ng/mL," she
Quality of life improved more for the D-supplement group, too.
Using a standard measure to evaluate quality of life, the
researchers found those who achieved a healthy blood level of the
vitamin scored 24 points higher than those not on supplements. A
20-point difference is considered meaningful from a "real-world"
perspective, Raftery said.
Raftery now is testing vitamin D in a larger, year-long study of
130 Crohn's patients.
The study results echo those of other researchers, including
John White, professor of physiology at McGill University, Montreal.
He said the research findings "show collectively that vitamin D
acts in the intestine to stimulate the innate immune system to
defend against pathogenic bacteria, and to enhance the barrier
function of the intestinal epithelium [the lining of the
Other researchers, including Raftery, have also shown vitamin D
can help improve muscle strength, he said.
Vitamin D is getting a lot of attention in inflammatory bowel
disease treatments, said Dr. Neera Gupta, co-chair of the Crohn's
& Colitis Foundation of America's pediatric affairs
More study is needed to determine the benefits of maintaining
vitamin D levels higher than currently recommended, she said.
Gupta cautioned those with Crohn's not to self-dose with vitamin
D. "Discuss your vitamin D status with your primary
gastroenterologist to determine whether or not vitamin D
supplementation is indicated in your particular situation," she
White said supplements are inexpensive and safer than too much
sun exposure. A daily intake of 2,000 IUs is considered safe, he
said. The safe upper limit for adults is 4,000 IUs, according to
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical
meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a
To learn more about vitamin D, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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