New concept explains link between vitamin D and ageing

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

How does vitamin D protect against the most common diseases and at the same time promote healthy ageing? The key to explaining the mechanism may be linking the body's individual response to vitamin D with immunocompetence (potent immunity).

'The results of our research suggest that immunocompetence describes not only an individual's ability to resist pathogens and parasites, but also to fight non-communicable diseases and the aging process itself,’ says Professor Carsten Carlberg from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS) in Olsztyn, a biochemist who specialises in vitamin D research.

The research results were published in the journal Nutrients. The co-author of the paper is Dr. Eunike Velleuer from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany).

Vitamin D affects the functioning of the entire body via its modulatory action on the immune system. Its deficiency causes the immune system to malfunction, leading to increased susceptibility to infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Based on the results of his previous research, Professor Carlberg proposed dividing the population into three groups according to the level of the body's response to vitamin D: high, mid and low responders. A high level of responsiveness means that the body is able to make maximum use of the effects of vitamin D (it has a high molecular response to vitamin D), and that in this group the need for supplementation is lower than in people from the low responder group.

This division is a starting point for understanding the scientist's subsequent research. He investigated the relationship between the groupings and the processes occurring at the molecular level in cells sensitive to changes in vitamin D - in the context of the ageing process.

Ageing is a natural and inevitable process of molecular and cellular damage accumulation, which leads to defective functions of cells, tissues and organs that weaken the entire human body. Some profound molecular changes in the immune system contribute to a decline in immunocompetence, i.e. the ability of the human body to respond appropriately to an exposure to an antigen.

As overall immunocompetence declines when the body ages, the relative number of immune cells decreases.

'However, there are differences between people in this population group, i.e. some people have a higher percentage of immune cells than average, and some have a lower percentage. Therefore, in the same age group there are people with a higher immunological resistance and others with a lower one. Therefore, it can be assumed that in the first group, the rate of ageing is slower and the incidence of diseases is lower, while in the second group accelerated ageing and a higher rate of disease should be observed,’ says Professor Carlberg.

On this basis, it can be assumed that the relationship between the level of the body's individual response to vitamin D and its immunocompetence plays a significant role in the ageing process.

Professor Carlberg and his team used this relationship to develop a mechanism explaining how vitamin D affects the epigenetic programming of immune cells, in particular monocytes and their derived cells.

'Our study results suggest that vitamin D is an important element of healthy ageing, not only for maintaining bones and skeletal muscles in good condition, but also for the homeostasis of the immune system. We also believe that a sufficient amount of vitamin D, adapted to the individual needs of the body, should stabilize immune resistance, protect against many diseases and maintain a low rate of ageing,’ Carlberg says. (PAP)

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