Vitamin D and autoimmune thyroid diseases: facts and unresolved questions

Abstract

Vitamin D deficiency (levels lower than 20 ng/ml) is becoming a global health problem, since it is increasingly represented even among healthy subjects. Vitamin D, as an environmental factor, is involved in many biological processes, like perception of chronic pain and response to infections. In recent years, evidence has emerged pointing to an involvement of vitamin D in the development of many autoimmune diseases, and a severe vitamin D deficiency has been especially demonstrated in patients affected with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD). Low levels of vitamin D were found associated with antithyroid antibody presence, abnormal thyroid function, increased thyroid volume, increased TSH levels, and adverse pregnancy outcome in women with AITD. Vitamin D mediates its effect through binding to vitamin D receptor (VDR), which is harbored on many human immune cells, and in this way is able to modulate immune cells activity, triggering both innate and adaptive immune responses. As VDR gene polymorphisms were found to associate with AITD, the evidence links vitamin D deficiency to AITD either through gene polymorphism or by environmental factors (lack of dietary uptake and sun exposure). Vitamin D supplementation may be offered to AITD patients, but further research is needed to define whether it should be introduced in clinical practice.

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Correspondence to Yehuda Shoenfeld.

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Bizzaro, G., Shoenfeld, Y. Vitamin D and autoimmune thyroid diseases: facts and unresolved questions. Immunol Res 61, 46–52 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12026-014-8579-z

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Keywords

  • Vitamin D
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Vitamin D supplementation
  • Autoantibodies