Diet and Autoimmune Diseases: How Vitamin D3 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids play a role?


In this video, we discuss the connection between vitamin D3 and omega 3 fatty acids, and how they impact autoimmune diseases. Are they helpful, harmful and what are some good sources for them?


Welcome to the SELF Principle: sleep, exercise, love, and food. As always, I’m Dr. Sean Hashmi. Now, today’s topic is all about autoimmune diseases. And what is the role of vitamin D and Omega-3?

Can these two very safe, well-tolerated supplements possibly play a role in either helping or hurting autoimmune conditions? Let’s look at the evidence and find out. Now, before we dive into the data, we got to define what an autoimmune condition is. Quite simply, it’s basically where your immune system basically mistakenly starts to attack its own body. And common diseases are things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, type one, diabetes, psoriasis, graves disease, and Gunbar syndrome.

Now, there are over 70 different autoimmune diseases. I just pointed out some of the more common ones. And if you guys know my story, as you know, my wife has lupus and I’ve always been looking at research into this area. And the reason I actually got started into a plant-based diet, specifically, a whole food plant-based diet, was because of my desire to make sure that my wife would do better. And so this was a topic today that was really interesting to me.

Now, as we go into this topic, let’s take a look at vitamin D and learn some basics about it. So as we go through the studies, you understand easier. First, a few points. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that comes from the sun. It comes from certain foods.

And for a lot of people, it comes from supplements. There are two main types. There’s the D two, which is ergocalciferol and that comes predominantly from plants. Then there’s the D-3 which is cholecalciferol, and that comes predominantly from animals. Now, there’s a lot of debate whether D two is better than D three or D three is better than D two.

Generally speaking, D 3 may raise levels a little bit better than D two can, but they’ll both do exactly the same thing. So when it comes to vitamin D, as it hits you from the sun, for example, that’s not the active form. It actually has to go through two steps. Two hydroxylations. The first one occurs in the liver, where the liver converts it to 25 hydroxy vitamin D, or calcidiol.

And then in the kidney, it gets converted to 1-25 hydroxy, vitamin D or calcitriol. And that is the physiologically active form. So now you know a little bit about vitamin D. Let’s talk a little bit about vitamin D functions. And why is it so important?

Well, the first thing that vitamin D is it’s going to promote the calcium to get absorbed into your gut better. So vitamin D will increase calcium absorption into your body. Second, is it promotes bone growth remodeling. So as we get older, we definitely want to make sure we have enough vitamin D so that we’ll continue to have healthy bones. It also lowers inflammation.

It modulates cell growth. And because of that, it may play a role in cancer prevention. It also has effects on the immune system, and it plays a role in glucose metabolism. Another thing that it does, which is really kind of interesting and neat is it regulates gene encoding all sorts of fancy words. But really, what we’re talking about here is it can control how cells are dividing and how cells are essentially going through cell death.

So if a cell is about to become cancerous is dividing too fast. Vitamin D may actually play a role in helping that cell to die so that it doesn’t go on to become cancerous. Now let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about Omega threes. So Omega three is a polyunsaturated fatty acid. Remember, the two types of healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

In terms of the sources for Omega three, there are both plant-based and animal-based, but this gets fascinating. So pay close attention to this one. Most people think of plant-based sources as the Alpha linoleic acid, which is flaxseed Chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oils. And when it comes to DHA and EPA, they always say, well, it comes from fish. What kind of fish, specifically cold-water fatty fish.

So, salmon mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, and, of course, fish oil and krill. But here’s what’s fascinating. That’s not the whole story. How do the fish get Omega-3? Do they make it or do they consume it?

Turns out they actually consume it from algae. So the richest source is actually algae. It goes inside the fish’s body and deposits inside the tissue. And when people eat the fish, that’s how they’re getting. So keep that in mind.

As you’re thinking about what’s a great source that’s plant-based you have algae. The other thing is when you talk about Alpha-linolenic acid, remember that’s the one that’s coming from flax seeds, Chia seeds. It converts into EPA, and then it converts into DHA. But the DHA conversion is actually very low. In fact, it’s less than 15%.

So as a result of it, if you’re going to go get your Omega threes from things like flax seeds, Chia seeds, make sure that you incorporate them healthy and plenty in your diet. So you can get that now in terms of the actual functions and why Omega-3 are so important, there are lots of data that’s confusing. So let me give you some basics. In terms of cardiovascular, there’s a vital trial that showed that there was a 28% reduction in total myocardial infarction, which is heart attack rates.

There’s the Ascent trial, which showed that there was a 19% reduction in cardiovascular-related death versus placebo going on.

So when it comes to cardiovascular health, Omega-3’s play a role. In breast cancer, there is a Singapore Chinese health study with 35,000 women. What they showed was that the highest intake of Omega-3 was linked with a 23% lower breast cancer risk after about 5.3 years in the vitamins and lifestyle cohort study after six years of fish oil, supplementation. When they compared highest versus lowest. What they found was that there was a 32% lower risk of breast cancer.

So with that, let’s dive into the research today, which is really looking at vitamin D and Omega-3 supplementation and whether that can prevent autoimmune diseases. This is the vital trial, which is a randomized controlled trial. It’s a double-blind, placebo-controlled, US population, with 25,871 people, the majority of whom were white, 71% white, 20% black, 9% other racial groups mean age about 67.1 years, and half of them were roughly 51%. To be exact.

They followed these people for over five years, 5.3 years to be exact. And they had essentially a sort of a mixture of two by two factor design of three items. One was vitamin D three, and that was 2000 international units or I use per day. They had Omega three fatty acids at 1000 milligrams per day, and then they had placebo. And the way they did it was they would have an arm that had vitamin D three and Omega three.

Another one with just vitamin D three or just Omega three, and then one that just had only placebo. So what did they find? The folks that were taking vitamin D 2000 international units versus placebo had a 22% reduction in new autoimmune conditions occurred in Omega three versus placebo. Well, there was a trend, but it didn’t reach significance, but it was a 15% reduction. What’s really interesting is that if you looked at all of the different arms, what they really showed was that if you compared vitamin D, Omega threes, what they showed was there was a 25% to 30% reduction combined versus placebo.

So as you think about this, what is the take-home message from this study? And what can you apply in your own life? First, Omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation is very basic. Now, whether you do vitamin D3 or D2, it won’t make a difference. But they are relatively safe.

They’re relatively nontoxic. For healthy people, you can still overdose on vitamin D. It is possible, but very rare, except in cases where you have kidney disease. The thing that’s interesting is that these two simple things could play a role in lowering your risk of having a brand new autoimmune condition, which can be devastating. And if you’re worried about trying to take supplements, don’t forget foods are a great source.

In fact, for Omega-3, algae specifically is one of the best sources, and that’s where all the fish get their Omega-3. So if you’re looking at plant-based sources for Omega threes, don’t forget algae, flax seeds, Chia seeds, beans, walnuts. And for vitamin D, most of the plant-based milk products are already fortified with vitamin D, so you will get plenty that way. As always, I would really appreciate it. If you would hit that subscribe button. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

So please drop a comment and I will absolutely reply to it. Thank you so much for watching. And as always, I really appreciate your support.


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