We are always on the lookout for opportunities to move from correlation to causation because we really want to know the true potential for vitamin D to help us reach optimal health. Unfortunately, figuring out the exact nature of what vitamin D does to all sorts of systems in our body is really difficult and takes painstaking, carefully designed research studies. The plain fact of the matter is that it just gets really complex.
Case in point: Some researchers in Finland wanted to really try to get to the next level of figuring out what vitamin D does in the body. What they discovered is pretty amazing. Turns out there are two genes that are quite responsive to vitamin D levels, genes CD14 and THBD (thrombomodulin), which in turn have an effect on interleukin 6 (IL6), a low-grade inflammation marker that is a risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In their experiments, patients with normal, fully functioning vitamin D signaling systems without saturated levels of the nutrient saw increasing levels of vitamin D3 via supplementation result in the down-regulation of IL6, indicating a clear benefit to supplementation. The additional problem here, though, is that about half the people studied didn’t respond in the same way to the supplementation regime. It is possible that those people don’t have a malfunctioning response system to vitamin D, or it might also be that their system is responding in a super-efficient way to vitamin D such that they are getting what they need from lower levels of the vitamin in circulation.
This now raises a whole new concern around vitamin D – whether or not people have an adequately functioning vitamin D response system that allows them to even gain benefits from getting more of the nutrient. As you can see, it just gets really complicated. But this is the level of attention and investigation needed if we’re really going to figure out what vitamin D can and cannot do for us, so stay tuned for more updates!
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