New Study Finds Psoriasis Symptoms More Severe In Those With Low Levels Vitamin D


New research suggests that vitamin D-rich foods or supplements may help alleviate symptoms in individuals with psoriasis.

In a recent, yet-to-be-published study, scientists examined data from 491 people with psoriasis. They assessed the participants’ vitamin D levels through blood tests and the extent of psoriasis-affected areas on their bodies.

Preliminary findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, indicate that individuals with lower vitamin D levels tended to have a larger proportion of their bodies affected by psoriasis.

Rachel K. Lim, an MD candidate at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who presented the findings at the meeting, said in a statement, “Our results suggest that a vitamin D–rich diet or oral vitamin D supplementation may also provide some benefit to psoriasis patients.”

Topical Vitamin D Is a Commonly Used Treatment Option for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a relatively common skin condition, impacting about 2 percent of the population in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). For some time, topical vitamin D has been one of the treatment options for psoriasis, often used in conjunction with topical corticosteroids.

Danilo Del Campo, MD, a dermatologist at Chicago Skin Clinic in Illinois who wasn’t involved in the new study said, “Topical treatments for psoriasis often contain synthetic forms of vitamin D. These compounds are adept at regulating the skin cell growth cycle, slowing the overproduction of skin cells and reducing the inflammation and scaling characteristic of psoriasis.”

The reason for this lies in the role of vitamin D in regulating the immune system. When vitamin D levels are low, it can lead to an overactive immune response and the rapid turnover of skin cells, a defining characteristic of psoriasis. Additionally, limited sun exposure due to discomfort or self-consciousness about psoriasis can contribute to lower vitamin D levels.

When sunlight exposure can naturally provide vitamin D, the AAD advises against spending more time outdoors to boost vitamin D levels due to the risk of skin cancer. Instead, they recommend consuming vitamin D-rich foods like milky and fatty fish and considering supplements if dietary intake alone is insufficient.

What Is Considered a Healthy Vitamin D Level?

As for what constitutes a healthy vitamin D level, the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that most adults should have a blood vitamin D level of at least 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). Levels below 30 nmol/L can have adverse health effects, including weakened bones, while levels above 125 nmol/L can also lead to health problems.

The study mentions that participants with fewer signs of psoriasis on their skin had average D levels of 67 nmol/L, compared to 56 nmol/L for those with more pronounced psoriasis. Additionally, only 25 percent of individuals with the least amount of psoriasis plaques were vitamin D deficient, in contrast to 39 percent of those with the highest number of plaques.

Dr. Del Campo says, “Maintaining vitamin D levels at a slightly higher threshold than typically recommended for the general population might be beneficial for individuals with psoriasis. However, the evidence to confirm this is not yet robust, and more studies are needed.”

Should All People with Psoriasis Take a Vitamin D Supplement?

Deirdre Hooper, MD, a dermatologist and co-founder of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans who was not involved in the study recommends a daily 600 mg vitamin D supplement for every psoriasis patient.

The study results indicate that it may be beneficial for individuals with psoriasis to have their vitamin D levels assessed and to consider higher supplement doses if needed to attain a healthy vitamin D level.

Meanwhile, Faranak Kamangar, MD, the chair of dermatology at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California, said, “It definitely makes sense for psoriasis patients to check their vitamin D levels, and if low, definitely supplement.”

Dr. Kamangar, who wasn’t involved in the new study also shared that if lab levels are normal, it’s unclear how much vitamin D supplements will help.

Still, Dr. Kamangar points out that it makes sense for psoriasis patients — even those with normal vitamin D levels — to use topical vitamin D treatments to help clear up symptoms.

“The topical use of vitamin D decreases the risk of high levels of calcium that can be caused by high doses of vitamin D taken orally. Topical vitamin D analogues are very safe,” Dr. Kamangar adds.