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Research spotlights vitamin D against colorectal cancer and COVID-19 risk

Research on vitamin D is mounting with a study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institutelinking higher vitamin D intake to decreased chance of developing young-onset colorectal cancer.In addition, a study published in the Cardiology Journal“statistically and significantly” associated low-serum vitamin D levels with the risk of COVID-19 infection. “We were amazed by how much vitamin D is shown to support so many health sectors,” Hanseul Kim, PhD candidate at the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, US, tells NutritionInsight.Mechanism of action not fully understoodDespite a global spike in vitamin D supplements, the Harvard researchers revealed that the colorectal cancer association was stronger for dietary vitamin D – principally from dairy products – than from vitamin D supplements.The same link was also found between higher vitamin D intake and the risk of colon polyps detected before age 50.Kim highlights the mechanism underlying differences between dietary vitamin D and supplemental vitamin D intake on early-onset colorectal carcinogenesis “is not fully understood.”Click to EnlargeAlthough early-onset colorectal cancer incidence is rising, it still remains a relatively rare disease.“The potential mechanism for the biologic effect of vitamin D on colorectal cancer as well as early-onset colorectal cancer would be that vitamin D inhibits proliferation, migration, invasiveness, and angiogenesis of colon carcinoma cells, and that vitamin D regulates the biology of intestinal immune cells,” she points out.Notably, vitamin D has been shown to supportbone health, heart health and lung health. Earlier this year, a German study also showed vitamin D could prevent 30,000 cancer deaths annually.These developments have led consumers to start taking a more holistic approach to their health, especially as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.Vitamin D has subsequentlybeen in demand, as companies such as DSMand Giellepihave been quick to launch novel supplement offerings.Vitamin D for older and obese patientsIn other research findings, the new coronavirus study review revealed the number of reports indicating the potential role of vitamin D deficiency in COVID-19 cases are increasing.The review highlights that patients suffering from COVID-19 were more likely to be overweight, obeseor older in age.The UK government issued free vitamin D supplements to COVID-19-vulnerable people, the elderly population in particular, last winter.Concerns simultaneously arose regarding health professionals perceiving vitamin D as a medicine, rather than as a key nutrient.Click to EnlargeLow serum vitamin D levels are statistically significantly associated with the risk of COVID-19 infection, found the study review.Even more potential?In terms of activation, vitamin D undergoes two hydroxylations in the body, passing through many parts of the body, including the liver and kidney.“While the second hydroxylation happens mostly in the kidneys, it is also thought to possibly happen in other specific tissues such as immune cells and colon. As such, vitamin D metabolism affects different parts of the body.”Therefore, Kim and her research team are confident there “still are many things to be studied with vitamin D.”Colorectal cancer may have been studied in abundance in relation to vitamin D, but research into other cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer are also rising to the fore.Kim concludes autoimmune diseases and diseases related to the immune system could also be studied.By Anni Schleicher

Reference : Nutrition Insight