In a recent study, hospital patients with higher levels of the vitamin were less likely to develop hospital-acquired bloodstream infection (HABSI).
This protective effect of vitamin D is an important finding. Boston researchers collected data from 2,135 patients of Boston hospitals from 1993 to 2010. The men and women had vitamin D levels measured before admission to the hospital. 48 hours after admission, their blood samples were taken and tested for HABSI. This included aerobic, anaerobic, and fungal cultures.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found vitamin D to show strong protection against HABSI. Pre-hospital levels of the vitamin that were less than 10 ng/mL doubled the risk of HABSI, compared to levels higher than 30 ng/mL. In general, levels lower than 20 ng/mL had a 70% greater adjusted risk than those above that level.
These finding supported the researchers’ hypothesis. They believed that vitamin D might play a role in fighting hospital-acquired infections. This is because vitamin D has a number of crucial roles in the immune system. It is involved in the production of peptides that fight against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is also needed for T cell response. Lower levels of the vitamin thus contribute to decreased innate immunity.
The researchers note that further long-term studies will be needed to confirm these findings. If confirmed, clinical trials can be done. Randomized and placebo-controlled trials will involve patient intake of vitamin D during or before hospitalization.
The body creates vitamin D naturally on exposure to sunlight. This nutrient is also present in certain foods, including salmon, tuna, sole, flounder, pork, eggs, and certain mushrooms. Cereal and milk are often fortified with vitamin D. The vitamin is also available as a supplement or added to supplements such as calcium. Find out more about vitamin D and natural sources of this nutrient.
Source: Am J Clin Nutr October 2013 98: 952-959; First published online August 14, 2013. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.058909