Vitamin D may help fight HIV

Vitamin D may help fight HIV

Previous research has shown that vitamin D is vital for the immune system, allowing the body to fight off infections more effectively. According to a new South African study, this immune-boosting benefit may extend to preventing and fighting HIV as well.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)involved 100 healthy participants from the Cape Town Xhosa and Cape Mixed communities. The researchers measured the levels of vitamin D in their blood samples and found that 64 percent of Xhosa and 70 percent of Cape Mixed participants were deficient in vitamin D during the winter. 

The participants were then given a high dose of cholecalciferol, a type of vitamin D, each week for six weeks. Their blood samples were exposed to HIV in vitro to test the effects of the supplementation on the samples' response to the infection.

The researchers found that after six weeks of supplementation, the participants' blood samples had higher levels of disease-fighting white blood cells and were more able to ward off HIV infection. In fact, the supplementation returned the participants' response to the infection to the levels seen in the summer, when they were less likely to be deficient in vitamin D.

"Vitamin D may be a simple, cost-effective intervention, particularly in resource-poor settings, to reduce HIV-1 risk and disease progression," the researchers concluded.

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