Reduce Risk For Autoimmune Disease with Vitamin D and Omega-3s

1 minute read

The chronic inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases can have devastating effects, and while there is no cure, treatments can help reduce inflammatory attacks. One such treatment is a healthy diet, which has been linked to reduced inflammation in the body. New research highlights specific nutrients your diet needs to reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases. 

Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes are marked by an immune system overactivity, where healthy tissues in the body are attacked. There are medications that can help reduce inflammation in the body, but science has shown that dietary changes can be more effective and support overall immune system activity. 

While vitamins A, C, and E, and zinc are most commonly associated with the immune system, a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital presented a new study showing that vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids are two nutrients your immune system needs. Earlier studies already provided valuable information:

Vitamin D helps promote immune cell activity, which can either promote or dampen autoimmune responses

♦ Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents

Building on this knowledge, this research team set out to collect evidence. Up until now, there has been no large-scale trial to support the connections between these nutrients and autoimmune disease risks. Their VITAL (VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL) trial recruited 25,781 adults, both male and female, over the age of 50. Participants were divided up into four treatment categories:

♦ An omega-3 and vitamin D placebo

♦ An omega-3 and a vitamin D supplement

♦ An omega-3 supplement and a vitamin D placebo

♦ An omega-3 placebo and a vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D soft gel capsules

The trial ran for three years, with participants reporting doctor-diagnosed autoimmune issues as they occurred. The data collected revealed that participants taking omega-3 or vitamin D supplements, or both, had a 25-30% lower risk of autoimmune diseases than the participants taking two placebos. They also found that the effects of supplementation appeared stronger after two years.

The immunomodulatory effects of vitamin D and the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids make these nutrients beneficial for autoimmune disease risk prevention. The results of this new trial have identified that either one or both of these supplements can reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases, which opens the door for more research and the potential development of new preventative therapy options. 

Journal source

Hahn J, Cook N, Alexander E, Friedman S, Bubes V, Walter J, Kotler G, Lee I, Manson J, Costenbader K. (2021). Vitamin D and Marine n-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Prevention of Autoimmune Disease in the VITAL Randomized Controlled Trial. Arthritis & Rheumatology, vol. 73 (suppl 10).