vitamin D

In response to the low vitamin D levels associated with worsening conditions of HIV-positive individuals, a study examines the effect of antiretroviral treatment and nutritional supplements on 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum levels within the body.


Vitamin D, a regulatory hormone, is an essential component of a healthy body and can be affected by external factors such as exposure to sunlight, nutritional intake, and the body’s state of health. A deficient amount of vitamin D may result in disease progression and ineffective treatment. A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition specifically addresses vitamin D levels in HIV-positive patients. The study alters vitamin D levels, measured through 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum amounts, with the use of nutritional supplements and antiretroviral treatment.

A lipid-based nutritional supplement was provided to HIV-positive patients, who had initiated antiretroviral treatment, two times a day for a period of 3 months. 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum levels were measured at initiation of treatment and 3 months since the treatment initiation. Levels of HIV-negative individuals were also measured for comparison purposes. Environmental factors such as season were controlled for. A total of 348 HIV-positive patients from Ethiopia, over the age of 18, in no stage of pregnancy, and with a body mass index of greater than 16 kg/m2 were recruited for the study. 100 additional HIV-negative individuals were included as well.

vitamin D

Comparisons among the HIV-positive and HIV-negative groups produced several distinctions. HIV-positive patients had relatively lower education levels as well as a lower median body mass index, and were found to be more food insecure in comparison to HIV-negative individuals. Experimental results indicated that the median 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum level was 17% higher in the HIV-positive group than the HIV-negative group. A reduction in serum level was noticed for individuals who did not receive the lipid-based nutritional supplement during antiretroviral treatment. Females had an overall 25% lower serum level than males. Serum level was not found to be associated with food insecurity, although varying trends were observed among individuals of different religions and occupations.

The study thoroughly assesses multiple influences of vitamin D levels within the body and their impact on the amount of 20-hydroxyvitamin D in the serum. Diet, HIV status, sex, age, occupation, and religion were all accounted for and trends within each category were recorded. Although the study was very comprehensive, it focused on a population of individuals from Ethiopia, a group that may not necessarily reflect the global population. The study also identifies that education levels varied among the group, which would likely have an impact on other factors such as diet and overall maintenance of health. Within its respective scope, the study provides valuable information for medical and health professionals in understanding correlations between health and environmental factors, allowing successful treatment and prevention plans to be put in place.


Written By: Shrishti Ahuja, BSc

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