The Effect of Vitamin D Deficiency on HIV Treatment


Vitamin D deficiency may impact immune recovery in patients with HIV.

Vitamin D deficiency may impact immune recovery in patients with HIV.

It was only a few months ago that research revealed that vitamin D can help inhibit replication of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and now the vitamin appears to contribute to treatment outcomes.

“In addition to HAART [highly active antiretroviral therapy], ensuring vitamin D sufficiency may also be helpful in restoring immune function,” study author Amara Ezeamama, PhD, said in a news release.

HIV inhibits the body’s ability to effectively fight off pathogens since the immune system is compromised. Data was used from an analysis which tracked 398 adults with HIV who had 25-hydroxy vitamin-D at the time of enrollment. The aim was to find the CD4+T-cell improvement in patients with vitamin D deficiency, insufficiency, and sufficiency.

At baseline, vitamin D levels measured in as follows:

  • Vitamin D Deficiency: 17%
  • Vitamin D Insufficiency: 60%
  • Vitamin D Sufficiency: 23%

“With antiretroviral drugs, people with HIV are beginning to live longer lives. Our goal was to understand whether vitamin D deficiency limits the amount of immune recover benefit for persons on HIV treatment,” explained Ezeamama, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the College of Public Health.

CD4+T-cell count were reported at zero, three, six, 12, and 18 months. According to the results published in Clinical Nutrition, CD4+T-cell count recovery were lower in the VDD and VDI groups when compared to the VDS group.

“The greatest deficit in absolute CD4+T-cells recovered occurred in VDD vs. VDS participants with estimates ranging from a minimum deficit of 26 cells/µl during follow-up,” Ezeamama confirmed. The VDD-associated low CD4+T-cell count was mostly observed in patients ages 35 or younger with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 kg/m².

The outcomes verified that VDD is connected to lower absolute CD4+T-cell count recovery.

Antiretroviral therapy has proven to help prolong the lives of those with HIV. These findings indicate that ensuring vitamin D sufficiency during treatment may further delay disease progression so that patients can live better lives.

“If we intervene with it, it could give individual HIV-infected persons a modest immune recovery bump that will likely translate to big public health impact,” Ezeamama concluded.

Vitamin D deficiency doesn’t just effect HIV. Deprivation of the vitamin has been linked to worsening chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and psoriatic arthritis, as well as a potential therapy to treat Crohn’s disease. So needless to say, don’t shy away from the sun and maybe add more fatty fish and other vitamin D-filled foods to your diet.

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