Context: Inadequate vitamin D status is common within elderly populations and may be implicated in the etiology of autoimmune disease and inflammation. Few studies have investigated the relationship between vitamin D status and age-related immune dysfunction in humans.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the association between vitamin D status and immune markers of inflammation in a large sample of older adults.
Design, setting, and participants: An observational investigation of 957 Irish adults (>60 years of age) recruited in Northern Ireland (55°N latitude) as part of the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture aging cohort study.
Main outcome measure: We measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry and serum cytokines IL-6, TNF-α, IL-10, and C-reactive protein (CRP) by ELISA.
Results: Concentrations of IL-6, CRP, and the ratios of IL-6 to IL-10 and CRP to IL-10 were significantly higher in individuals with deficient (<25 nmol/L) serum 25(OH)D compared with those with sufficient (>75 nmol/L) status after adjustment for age, sex, and body mass index (P < .05). Vitamin D status was a significant predictor of the IL-6 to IL-10 cytokine ratio, and those participants defined as deficient were significantly more likely to have an IL-6 to IL-10 ratio >2:1 compared with those defined as sufficient.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated significant associations between low vitamin D status and markers of inflammation (including the ratio of IL-6 to IL-10) within elderly adults. These findings suggest that an adequate vitamin D status may be required for optimal immune function, particularly within the older adult population.