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Vitamin D cuts death risk in HIV carriers

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By David Liu, PHD

Monday Sept 3, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in PLoS One suggests that HIV carriers may be better off taking vitamin D supplements to maintain a normal level of serum vitamin D.

The study led by Christopher R. Sudfeld of Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues found HIV carriers with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to die than those with sufficient vitamin D in the blood.

A growing body of evidence has suggested an association between low serum vitamin D and HIV disease progression.  The study was intended to examine the association among HIV carriers receiving antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa.
For the study, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels were tested at the beginning of the antiretroviral therapy in a randomly selected cohort of 1103 HIV-infected adults enrolled in a trial of multivitamins in Tanzania between 2006 and 2010. Subjects were followed up for a median of 2.6 months and CD4 T-cell counts were measured every four months.

Among HIV carriers, 9.2 percent were found vitamin D deficient (<20 ng/ml), 43.6 percent insufficient (20–30 ng/mL), and 47.2 percent sufficient (>30 ng/mL) at baseline. 

After adjustment for confounders, HIV carriers with vitamin D deficiency were twice as likely as those HIV carriers who had vitamin D sufficiency to die, whereas men with vitamin D insufficiency were 24 percent more likely to die than those with vitamin D sufficiency. The association for vitamin D insufficiency was not statistically significant.

The associations remain independent of antiretroviral infection treatments and do not change over time.  Vitamin D status was not correlated with any change in CD4 T-cell count after initiation of antiretroviral therapy.
The researchers concluded "Deficient vitamin D levels may lead to increased mortality in individuals receiving ART (antiretroviral therapy) and this relationship does not appear to be due to impaired CD4 T-cell reconstitution."

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