Review article: vitamin D and inflammatory bowel diseases

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Jan;39(2):125-36. doi: 10.1111/apt.12553. Epub 2013 Nov 17.


Background: Vitamin D is traditionally associated with bone metabolism. The immunological effects of vitamin D have increasingly come into focus.

Aim: To review the evidence supporting a role of vitamin D in inflammatory bowel diseases.

Methods: A comprehensive search was performed on PubMed using the terms 'crohn's disease' 'ulcerative colitis' and 'vitamin D'.

Results: Vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) (16-95%) including those with recently diagnosed disease. Evidence supports immunological role of vitamin D in IBD. In animal models, deficiency of vitamin D increases susceptibility to dextran sodium sulphate colitis, while 1,25(OH)2 D3 ameliorates such colitis. One prospective cohort study found low predicted vitamin D levels to be associated with an increased risk of Crohn's disease (CD). Limited data also suggest an association between low vitamin D levels and increased disease activity, particularly in CD. In a large cohort, vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/mL) was associated with increased risk of surgery (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2-2.5) in CD and hospitalisations in both CD (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.6-2.7) and UC (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.7-3.1). A single randomised controlled trial demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation may be associated with reduced frequency of relapses in patients with CD compared with placebo (13% vs. 29%, P = 0.06).

Conclusions: There is growing epidemiological evidence to suggest a role for vitamin D deficiency in the development of IBD and also its influence on disease severity. The possible therapeutic role of vitamin D in patients with IBD merits continued investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / etiology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / immunology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / metabolism
  • Crohn Disease / epidemiology
  • Crohn Disease / etiology*
  • Crohn Disease / immunology
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Vitamin D / immunology
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / immunology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism


  • Vitamin D