Can Vitamins Complement Cystic Fibrosis Treatment?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) primarily affects respiration and digestion, though it also causes chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) primarily affects respiration and digestion, though it also causes chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.

With a better selection of treatments available, CF patients’ survival has improved. One area of interest is nutritional interventions, such as micronutrient supplementation.

Research has proven that diet modulates gut microbiota in the general population and can bolster immunity and decrease inflammation. Researchers from Australia report that the same may be true for CF patients. The basis of their hypothesis is that CF patients’ gut microbiota appears disrupted and may influence pulmonary status.

As part of a large study of diet among CF patients, the researchers examined the relationship between micronutrient intake and the gut microbiota. They looked for specific bacterial taxa and micronutrient candidates that might be employed to manipulate the gut microbiota in CF. Their future goal is to identify nutritional therapies that complement CF treatment by modifying gut microbiota composition and/or functions.

As CF patients’ vitamin C, beta-carotene equivalents, vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin intake increased, their levels of Bacteroides and associated taxa decreased. This is important because the Bacteroides species tends to increase in the gut in patients who experience inflammation (ie, Crohn's disease).

As beta-carotenes and vitamins E and C intakes increased, Firmicutes and Clostridium species also increased; these are species that seem to be affected by elevated oxidative stress seen in CF.

Meanwhile, increased dietary potassium decreased Bacteroidales populations. The researchers believe that this change was associated with luminal electrolyte alterations.

Most CF patients take multivitamins, so their intake of vitamins is considerably higher than the general population’s. The researchers noted that intake of vitamin and micronutrient supplements at levels considered normal for the general population may not induce gut microbiota in CF patients at levels seen in their study.

More study is needed to determine whether antioxidant vitamin intake can influence CF gut microbiota and elucidate their potential clinical/therapeutic implications in CF.

This study appeared ahead-of-print in the journal Clinical Nutrition.