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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D and autoimmune disorders: The latest research

Dr. Nancy Agmon-Levin and colleagues of the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel recently reviewed the evidence that vitamin D is involved in autoimmune disorders.

Agmon-Levin N, Theodor E, Segal RM, Shoenfeld Y. Vitamin D in Systemic and Organ-Specific Autoimmune Diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Dec 14.

Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s immune system is tricked into thinking that self is foreign and self needs to be destroyed. Thus the immune system makes antibodies that attack various tissues in the body.

Vitamin D administration helps autoimmune disorders by making qualitative and quantitative changes in the immune system (less Th1 and more Th2). This makes the body more tolerant of self and less likely to mount autoimmune responses. Vitamin D also increase the number of T regulatory cells.

In this review, the authors break down many of the autoimmune diseases vitamin D has been implicated in, and what observational studies show:

  1. Systemic lupus erythematosus can affect any organ. Such patients have lower vitamin D levels and low vitamin D levels correlate with disease severity.
  2. Antiphospolipid syndrome is a disorder in which antibodies attack lipid cell membranes and such patients have lower vitamin D levels and low levels correlate with disease severity.
  3. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common autoimmune disorder in which antibodies attack cartilage. Such patients have lower vitamin D levels and low levels are correlated with disease severity.
  4. Systemic sclerosis is not well understood, although such patients have low vitamin D levels and the lower the level the worse the disease.
  5. Multiple sclerosis is a common autoimmune disorder of middle age adults in which antibodies attack the sheaths of nerves. Such patients have low vitamin D levels, and the lower the level, the worse the disease.
  6. Autoimmune thyroid disease, like that which causes most thyroid disease, is a condition in which antibodies attack the thyroid and such patients have low vitamin D levels and low levels correlate with disease severity.
  7. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to dietary gluten and disease severity is associated with lower levels of vitamin D.
  8. Insulin dependent diabetes, also known as type 1 diabetes, is correlated with low vitamin D levels. Increased disease severity is associated with lowest vitamin D levels.
  9. Crohn’s disease in an inflammatory disorder of the bowel, and severity is linked to the lowest vitamin D levels.
  10.  Primary biliary cirrhosis is an autoimmune disorder with a female to male ratio of 9:1 in which antibodies attack the small bile ducts in the liver. Such patients have low levels of vitamin D and disease severity is correlated with the lowest levels.
  11. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease leading to patchy baldness, and such patients have low levels of vitamin D.

Had enough? The authors wisely conclude,

“Evidence regarding the purported benefit of vitamin D supplementation on a multitude of health benefits has been reported worldwide. Furthermore, given the fact that supplementation of vitamin D in its native form is harmless and inexpensive, we believe that time has come to advocate for wider use of vitamin D supplementation.”

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

16 Responses to Vitamin D and autoimmune disorders: The latest research

  1. Rita and Misty says:


    As quoted from above: “Primary biliary cirrhosis is an autoimmune disorder with a female to male ratio of 9:1 in which antibodies attack the small bile ducts in the liver. Such patients have low levels of vitamin D and disease severity is correlated with the lowest levels.”

    I wonder if this condition might possibly cause scarring which would be detected on an ultrasound.

    I wonder if once an individual had achieved and maintained optimal 25(OH)D levels the liver might then heal.

  2. Ashtatara says:

    This Dr. and his team treats autoimmune diseases with very high doses of Vitamin D3. The doses are individual and based on tests. The patients take from 20.000 IU to 200.000 IU each day. I have MS and I am following the protocol. It is about time that the medical community makes this treatment available all over the world. We cannot wait for more research. People are getting their lives back.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erAgu1XcY-U VITAMIN D3 IS THE ANSWER TO PREVENT AND TREAT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES!!! To the Medical Doctors who reads this: Go to Brazil and learn the protocol from Dr. Cicero Galli Coimbra :) PLEASE

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    Dear Ashatara,

    If you have ever read my prior posts on the members’ blog and the VDC FB page, you know that I am very much pro-vitamin d (actually this is an understatement).

    I have many, many times expressed my upset regarding how slowly change moves in the medical community, and how I believe it will take the public to move (push) the medical community on vitamin d.

    I am a bit of a Pollyanna. And, I should know better, as I am employed by a research institution. A BIG ONE.

    So let me explain to you how the research system works here in the good ‘ole USA:

    Studies must be approved by an institutional review board (IRB), also known as an independent ethics committee or ethical review board. This is a committee that has been formally designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans.

    The IRB conducts some form of risk-benefit analysis in an attempt to determine whether or not research should be done.

    In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (specifically Office for Human Research Protections) regulations have empowered the IRB to approve, or require modifications in planned research prior to approval. Or to disapprove research in its entirety.

    No research can be initiated with review and consent by IRB.
    IRB approval is the controlling force.
    It has power.

    And, as the number one priority of the IRB is to protect human subjects from physical or psychological harm, the entire process is very stringent.

    And slow.

    Slow…like molasses.

    What you are talking about is at best 50 years in the future; and perhaps at worst, 100 years in the future–imo.

    Now, with that ugly truth being stated, I still believe (yes, I am Pollyanna) that the public can move (push) the medical community on this issue.

    Apathy is the enemy.

    And at times all of us are prone to apathy.

  4. Rita and Misty says:

    Correction to one of my above paragraphs:
    “No research can be initiated with review and consent by IRB.”

    SHOULD READ: “No research can be initiated withOUT review and consent by IRB.”

    Little Freudian slip there…

  5. eelisabethpuur@gmail.com says:

    @Rita and Misty

    You forgot to mention the conflict of interest , the marriage between Big Pharma, Big Food and what you call the medical community. Research is often done, just to maintain the status, the power, the fond money for more research, not to the benefits of sick people/patients.

  6. Rita and Misty says:

    Dear Eelisabethpuur@gmail.com,

    I thank you for the information on NAFLD. The more information I have, the better off I will be-imo. I’m grateful for your help. My energy level and endurance continue to be awesome, so I am (slowly) regaining my composure…My HMO is known as the “death plan” here where I live and work, so I tend to take what it says with two or three grains of salt. My plan is to live at least another 50 years. :)

    Regarding “conflict of interest, the marriage of between Big Pharma, Big Food and the medical/research community,” yes…I know first hand that research is (mostly) done to maintain status, power and to fund money for further research.

    But, how much can I (one person) say? I too am prone to exhaustion at times… I can’t do this alone. So, thank you for your help! :) And, I look forward to your future posts. After all, we are all in this together. And we exist because we choose to belong.

  7. AmyAllen says:

    Dr. Cannell,
    What is the difference between prescription Vitamin D and Vitamin D3? Which do you recoomend for D deficiency?

    • Brant Cebulla says:

      Amy, usually they’re the same thing. Vitamin D is a broad term to describe both vitamin D3 and vitamin D2. Often times when a supplement bottle says “vitamin D,” it’s usually vitamin D3.

      We recommend the use of D3 rather than D2, so be sure to check somewhere on the bottle that it is indeed D3.

  8. jangrossberg@gmail.com says:

    I just got my Vit D level result back…it is >92. I am a night shift nurse and have been having issues since 2011, including pneumonia, pleurisy, pleural effusion resulting in 4 thoracenteses this past year. My previous Vit D level a couple of years back was 109, so I have always been a bit higher than the “normal” range. I am beginning to suspect RA as the culprit in my pulmonary issues. Had a transesophageal cardiac echo this a.m., heart is cleared. Last chest xray 3 weeks ago, no further pleural effusion. Still having worsening chest pressure & SOB, lots of fatigue. Any ideas? Just read some emerging research on helminth (parasite) therapy. Also, pregnenolone supplementation. Interestingly, most of this trouble seemed to start within a week of getting a betamethasone injection for tendinitis in my R elbow. Thanks for any suggestions.

  9. Mark Haymond says:

    AmyAllen asked “What is the difference between prescription Vitamin D and Vitamin D3 and which do you recommend?” She was answered that usually prescription Vitamin D and Vitamin D3 are the same thing. However, Dr Cannell explained in the newsletter dated November 11, 2011 that there is usually a difference. The newsletter article is entitled, “Meta-Analysis Looks At Efficacy of D2 vs D3.” http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/blog/meta-analysis-looks-at-efficacy-of-d2-vs-d3/

    Dr Cannell explained that “Driscol is D2 and the form of vitamin D that doctors write prescriptions for….The body doesn’t produce D2 in response to sun exposure.” The body produces D3. The article said the Meta Analysis indicated that D3 is more effective than D2. I have read in other places that D2 is only one third as effective as D3. So as Brant said, the Vitamin D Council recommends D3 rather than D2 and we should always check to see that the bottle says D3 when we purchase it over the counter.

  10. Rita and Misty says:

    Vitamin D2 Is Much Less Effective than Vitamin D3 in Humans

    Laura A. G. Armas,
    Bruce W. Hollis and
    Robert P. Heaney


    If it doesn’t open properly, please feel free to email me at rita.umile@yale.edu, and I will send you the full-text article.

    Be well !

  11. Ian says:

    Yet Michael Holick thinks they have the same efficacy:

    Holick, M. F.; Binkley, N. C.; Bischoff-Ferrari, H. A.; Gordon, C. M.; Hanley, D. A.; Heaney, R. P.; Murad, M. H.; Weaver, C. M. (2011). “Evaluation, Treatment, and Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline”. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96 (7): 1911.


    Much confusion still as well as defense and manipulation by the companies that produce the D2 for prescription.

  12. Rita and Misty says:

    @Ian~~To continue the discussion….

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jun;95(6):1357-64. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.031070. Epub 2012 May 2.

    Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
    Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, Smith CP, Bucca G, Penson S, Chope G, Hyppönen E, Berry J, Vieth R, Lanham-New S.

    Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK. laura.tripkovic@surrey.ac.uk

    “This meta-analysis indicates that vitamin D3 is more efficacious at raising serum 25(OH)D concentrations than is vitamin D2, and thus vitamin D3) could potentially become the preferred choice for supplementation. However, additional research is required to examine the metabolic pathways involved in oral and intramuscular administration of vitamin D and the effects across age, sex, and ethnicity, which this review was unable to verify.”


  13. My son has just been diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome. He has been taking vitamin D3 for several years however, what would be the recommended dose he should take. He is 43, weighs about 250 and is 5’10”. A year or so ago his level tested at 49 but about six months ago his level tested at 26. Thank you in advance for reading this. Barbara Haplea

  14. Brant Cebulla says:


    We recommend 5,000 IU/day in general. 250 lbs is a little above the average weight, so he may need more. We would recommend trying 5,000 IU/day, testing again in 3-6 months, and see where his level is from 26 ng/ml.