Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. It helps to keep bones and teeth healthy and keeps your muscles strong. Recent research has also pointed to vitamin D’s role in boosting the immune system. In the latest health news, researchers at the University of California have discovered another health breakthrough about vitamin D: it plays a critical role in your body’s ability to fight off infections. And not just any infection, but a potentially life-threatening one like tuberculosis (TB).
For their study, the U.S. researchers investigated the mechanisms by which the body manages to kill or stop the growth of pathogens, such as “M. tuberculosis,” the bacteria that causes TB. In the course of their research, they detected that white blood cells — which are critical in the fight against infections — can’t perform their job properly without adequate levels of vitamin D.
Not impressed by this finding? Think of this protective activity the other way around. The researchers found that there was an astonishing 85% drop in TB bacteria when adequate amounts of vitamin D were absorbed.
There have been clues for a long time that vitamin D might be an alternative remedy for TB. Sanatoriums built to treat TB patients were often placed in sunny locations. This seemed to help many recover from the lung disease, though at the time doctors didn’t know why.
The U.S. study revealed even more intricately how vitamin D could successfully kill off infections caused by TB. T-cells release interferon (a protein), which activates infected cells to generate other proteins to kill TB. These proteins are delivered directly to the part of the cell where the bacteria live.
The study authors noted one more important point: most people with TB never get any symptoms. This could be because their immune response — boosted by adequate vitamin D — is successful in stopping a fledgling TB infection from progressing into a full-blown, active disease.
This is an important health breakthrough, as we have reached a time when drug-resistant forms of TB are cropping up. Vitamin D could be a safe and effective way to boost immunity against this stubborn infection and others like it.