Vitamin D deficiency and bowel diseases connected

Research with mice at Penn State has demonstrated a connection between vitamin D deficiency and two bowel diseases that occur in one out of every 1,000 people in North America and Europe.

Dr. Margherita T. Cantorna, assistant professor of nutrition and director of the research project, says "Our experiments show that vitamin D deficiency worsens the symptoms of Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis. Treatment with Vitamin D for as little as two weeks lessens the symptoms of these inflammatory bowel diseases in mice."

Cantorna detailed her research in a paper, "Vitamin D Deficiency Exacerbates Experimental Inflammatory Bowel Disease," presented today (April 18) at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, Calif. Her co-authors are Carey Munsick, a Penn State undergraduate, and Candace Bemiss, a Penn State master's degree candidate in nutrition. Their paper is the first in which researchers report demonstrating a connection between vitamin D deficiency and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

In her team's experiments, mice genetically engineered to spontaneously develop the symptoms of either Chron's disease or ulcerative colitis were also made vitamin D deficient at birth. The mice were then either maintained deficient or given vitamin D supplements in their food to bring them up to the normal level. The treated mice had less bowel inflammation than the untreated mice did. In addition, the mice that did not receive the supplements began to die at seven weeks of age and by nine weeks more than half were dead. In contrast none of the mice that received the supplements died during the experiment period.

"Vitamin D deficiency is more common in people who have inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, the anti-inflammatory drugs often used to treat IBD can cause bone loss as a side effect," Cantorna says. "Vitamin D taken in combination with these drugs may be able to reduce the effective dose of anti-inflammatory needed to tr

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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