(RxWiki News) Scientists have used a combination of blood tests and oral doses of vitamin D to observe how well it is absorbed in patients with Crohn's disease, a debilitating digestive disorder.
Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder of the digestive tract that commonly affects the small intestine, causing painful swelling and frequent severe diarrhea. Blockage of the intestine can also occur due to scar tissue and inflammation. Crohn's disease affects more than half a million people in the United States, primarily between the ages of 15 and 35.
Scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine have shown for the first time that patients for whom Crohn's disease is non-symptomatic still experience reduced vitamin D absorption and are therefore at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is present in many foods but is also formed by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease show increased instances of vitamin D deficiency, while those with Crohn's disease account for a majority of those cases.
By performing blood tests on 37 patients with Crohn's disease, researchers found that their ability to absorb orally administered vitamin D was 30 percent lower than 10 normal test subjects who did not have Crohn's disease. The team concluded that absorption ability was "unpredictable" and that factors like prior surgery and disease activity do not predict how well patients with Crohn's disease will retain vitamin D.
Vitamin D bioavailability tests like these are convenient and can be a useful tool for physicians treating Crohn's disease patients suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.