A new randomized controlled trial out of Egypt reports that vitamin D can reduce the incidence of flare-ups in patients with SLE.
Dr Anna Abou-Raya, MD, PhD, and colleagues of the University of Alexandria in Egypt recently published results from a randomized controlled trial in which 267 SLE patients were randomized to receive 2,000 IU/day (n=178) vitamin D3 or a placebo (n=89) for 1 year. They also included a group of healthy control participants (n=175), to compare baseline characteristics between healthy patients and SLE patients.
Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. SLE occurs most often in women between the ages of 10 and 50. The disease often causes joint pain and swelling, with some experiencing arthritis, hair loss, mouth sores, sensitivity to sunlight, chronic fatigue, and chest pain. The course of the disease can be erratic, with periods of illness (flares) alternating with remissions.
To start, mean 25(OH)D status at baseline for all patients with SLE was 19.8 ng/ml compared to 28.7 ng/ml in healthy controls. After 12 months of therapy, the vitamin D group’s mean 25(OH)D level increased to 37.8 ng/ml, compared to no change in the placebo group.In this randomized controlled trial, vitamin D levels, SLE disease activity, and markers of inflammation were all measured before and after treatment. The researchers found:
- Over the course of the year, only 10% of patients in the vitamin D group experienced a flare-up, compared to 24% experiencing flare-ups in the placebogroup over the course of the year (p<0.05).
- The authors noticed a significant reduction in SLE-related antibodies (indicate inflammation) in the vitamin D group compared with the placebo group (p=0.05).
In further analysis, the authors found:
- 25(OH)D levels were lowest among patients experiencing active SLE flares.
- Significantly higher SLE disease activity was observed in participants with severe vitamin D deficiency (p=0.01).
Based on the results of the study, the authors suggest that higher vitamin D status seems to improve inflammatory markers associated with SLE and shows a tendency toward overall disease improvement. They call for larger trials to establish optimal vitamin D dosage for SLE patients.
The authors conclude,
“Vitamin D, a safe, inexpensive, and widely available agent, may be as effective as a disease-suppressing intervention for patients with SLE.”
With research like this, hopefully vitamin D will soon become a common addition to standard SLE treatment.
Abou-Raya A, Abou-Raya S, Helmii M. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on inflammatory and hemostatic markers and disease activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosis: A randomized placebo-controlled trail. The Journal of Rheumatology. Dec 2012.