Oral Vitamin D Rapidly Attenuates Inflammation from Sunburn: An Interventional Study

J Invest Dermatol. 2017 Oct;137(10):2078-2086. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2017.04.040. Epub 2017 May 30.


The diverse immunomodulatory effects of vitamin D are increasingly being recognized. However, the ability of oral vitamin D to modulate acute inflammation in vivo has not been established in humans. In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled interventional trial, 20 healthy adults were randomized to receive either placebo or a high dose of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) one hour after experimental sunburn induced by an erythemogenic dose of UVR. Compared with placebo, participants receiving vitamin D3 (200,000 international units) demonstrated reduced expression of proinflammatory mediators tumor necrosis factor-α (P = 0.04) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (P = 0.02) in skin biopsy specimens 48 hours after experimental sunburn. A blinded, unsupervised hierarchical clustering of participants based on global gene expression profiles revealed that participants with significantly higher serum vitamin D3 levels after treatment (P = 0.007) demonstrated increased skin expression of the anti-inflammatory mediator arginase-1 (P = 0.005), and a sustained reduction in skin redness (P = 0.02), correlating with significant expression of genes related to skin barrier repair. In contrast, participants with lower serum vitamin D3 levels had significant expression of proinflammatory genes. Together the data may have broad implications for the immunotherapeutic properties of vitamin D in skin homeostasis, and implicate arginase-1 upregulation as a previously unreported mechanism by which vitamin D exerts anti-inflammatory effects in humans.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Cholecalciferol / administration & dosage*
  • Cholecalciferol / pharmacokinetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Sunburn / blood
  • Sunburn / diagnosis
  • Sunburn / drug therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage
  • Vitamins / pharmacokinetics
  • Young Adult


  • Vitamins
  • Cholecalciferol