“Emerging evidence suggests protective effects of vitamin D against liver fibrogenesis,” the researchers wrote in their report, published earlier this year in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.
By fibrogenesis, the researchers, affiliated with Mahidol University in Bangkok, were referring to the development of liver fibrosis, a form of liver damage that is a leading cause of liver transplantation.
They looked at the body of research on vitamin D and liver health published so far and found that several studies demonstrated significant association between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of liver fibrosis.
“Additionally, high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was noted in patients with liver fibrosis, suggesting the use of vitamin D status as a biochemical marker reflecting the progression of liver fibrosis,” they reported.
“It is therefore reasonable to postulate that vitamin D supplementation being a cost effective and relative simple procedure may benefit to liver fibrosis.”
Vitamin D’s role in liver still emerging
The many forms of vitamin D have been extensively studied for its bone health benefits. In contrast, its role in liver health is sparse.
The researchers looked at 18 studies in total that covered vitamin D and liver health. Fourteen of them looked at vitamin D levels associated with liver fibrosis in patients with various chronic liver diseases, while the other four studies looked at genetic variations affecting vitamin D levels related to liver fibrosis.
The strongest evidence for a possible relationship between circulating vitamin D levels and liver fibrosis, they wrote, was reported in a 2014 study out of Turkey, published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences.
“They observed that patients with autoimmune hepatitis had remarkably reduced circulating vitamin D levels, as compared to healthy controls. Moreover, circulating vitamin D levels were negatively correlated with advance fibrosis in those patients,” they wrote.
Because of the long legacy of using vitamin D supplements, the Thai researchers argued that it is a relatively safe and potentially efficacious way of managing liver problems and maintaining liver health.
“Additional researches are warranted to validate the safety and efficiency of vitamin D supplements for either the treatment or prevention of liver fibrosis before a standardized treatment regimen can be established,” they added.
Source: Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy
Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2018.10.140
Vitamin D and liver fibrosis: Molecular mechanisms and clinical studies
Authors: Wanvisa Udomsinprasert, et al.