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Women resist infections better, but have more autoimmune diseases – Vitamin D- Dec 2016

Vitamin D, autoimmunity and gender

Curr Med Chem. 2016 Dec 19. [Epub ahead of print]
Crescioli C1, Minisola S.
1Department of Movement, Human and Health Sciences, University of Rome Foro Italico, 00135 Rome, Italy.

Vitamin D deficiency is considered a risk factor for autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D and its analogues have been proposed as therapeutic tools in autoimmunity considering their exquisite immunoregulatory effect against over-reactivity towards tolerance. Autoimmune diseases, nowadays recognized as emerging non communicable diseases, are characterized by a significant female bias. This sexual dimorphism seems related to sex hormones, which differently affect male and female immune systems.

  • Males show higher immunosuppression, maybe due to androgens;
  • the greater female immunoreactivity and competence, likely related to estrogens, lead to a greater resilience to infections but also to a higher risk for autoimmunity.

Higher interest could be given to vitamin D-based supplementation or therapy for autoimmune diseases in relation to gender as well.

This review aims to discuss the role of vitamin D in autoimmune diseases with a view inside gender-related differences, in light of the interplay between vitamin D and sex hormones, especially estrogens.

Some beneficial effects against autoimmune processes seem to be allowed by vitamin D acting in synergy with estrogens. This observation suggests that possible differences of vitamin D effects depend on the context in which this hormone is active.

Rather sex-related differences of "absolute" vitamin D levels, the role of gender-dependent factors affecting vitamin D action seems to be critical. Gender and sexual hormones could be included as variables when evaluating the potential power of vitamin D receptor agonists as novel pharmacological tools to approach autoimmune diseases.

PMID: 28000549

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