Vitamin D supplementation has been rising in popularity because of its well-established role for supporting stronger bones, a healthy immune system, and heart health (1-3). Recently, researchers from the London School of Medicine have also found that vitamin D may help mediate the immune system and assist in supporting leukocyte (white blood cell) telomere length.
The study (1), published in 2007 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, comes at a time of widespread vitamin D insufficiency and amidst growing evidence that telomere length represents an important biomarker of biological aging.
Affected by habits and conditions ranging from smoking to obesity, the authors state that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) may also reflect levels of chronic stress and inflammation. Results from this study showed LTL was shorter in women with lower levels of vitamin D and when markers of inflammation increase (see figure).
The influence on telomeres by the sunshine vitamin is likely due to a possible “inhibitory effect” on inflammation, the researchers report.
The researchers analyzed C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, LTL, and vitamin D concentrations in 2,160 women with an average age of 49. They found that the women who had higher blood levels of vitamin D (25-OH-vitamin D) had longer telomeres after adjusting for age, season, life-stage, use of hormone replacement therapies, and physical activity level.
Negatively correlated with CRP and positively correlated with vitamin D, the researchers demonstrated that LTL varied with levels of inflammation.
“The present study further supports the concept that LTL may serve as a cumulative index of an individual’s lifelong burden of oxidative stress and inflammation,” the authors conclude.
- Richards JB et al. Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 86: 1420-5.
- Provvedini DM et al. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 receptors in human leukocytes. Science 1983;221:1181-2. doi: 10.1126/science.6310748
- Manolagas et al. Interactions of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and the immune system. Mol Cell Endocrinol 1985;43:113-22. doi:10.1016/0303-7207(85)90074-7