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Vitamin D and the gut microbiome: a systematic review of in vivo studies

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Abstract

Purpose

Variation in the human microbiome has been linked with a variety of physiological functions, including immune regulation and metabolism and biosynthesis of vitamins, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Evidence for extraskeletal effects of vitamin D has been accruing and it has been suggested that the effect of vitamin D on health is partially mediated through the microbiome. We aimed to critically evaluate the evidence linking vitamin D and the gastrointestinal microbiome.

Methods

We systematically searched the Embase, Web of Science, PubMed and CINAHL databases, including peer-reviewed publications that reported an association between a measure of vitamin D and the gastrointestinal microbiome in humans or experimental animals.

Results

We included 10 mouse and 14 human studies. Mouse studies compared mice fed diets containing different levels of vitamin D (usually high versus low), or vitamin D receptor knockout or Cyp27B1 knockout with wild-type mice. Five mouse studies reported an increase in Bacteroidetes (or taxa within that phylum) in the low vitamin D diet or gene knockout group. Human studies were predominantly observational; all but two of the included studies found some association between vitamin D and the gut microbiome, but the nature of differences observed varied across studies.

Conclusions

Despite substantial heterogeneity, we found evidence to support the hypothesis that vitamin D influences the composition of the gastrointestinal microbiome. However, the research is limited, having been conducted either in mice or in mostly small, selected human populations. Future research in larger population-based studies is needed to fully understand the extent to which vitamin D modulates the microbiome.

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Acknowledgements

RE Neale is funded by a fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

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Contributions

BH and REN conceived the study. BH, REN, and MW identified citations for inclusion and extracted relevant information. LK, MM, MMP and MZ provided critical comment on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rachel E. Neale.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Waterhouse, M., Hope, B., Krause, L. et al. Vitamin D and the gut microbiome: a systematic review of in vivo studies. Eur J Nutr 58, 2895–2910 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1842-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1842-7

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