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 disease symptoms.
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 said.
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 intestine]."
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 committee.
More study is needed to determine the bene
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