The trial has received funding from Lottery Health Research, and is being managed by PhD student Michelle Ingram as part of her doctoral thesis. Ms Ingram is excited by the potential an alternative low-cost treatment may offer.
“Traditional treatment of psoriasis can include topical lotions, creams, pills or injections, or phototherapy – which uses light to treat the condition,” she says. “They can be inconvenient, expensive, and increase the risk of other health problems. If we can determine the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements, this could give people with psoriasis another option for treatment.”
Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious inflammatory disease of the skin, with an estimated one in 50 adults in New Zealand living with the condition. Plaque-based psoriasis is the most common type, and while it can be managed, there is no known cure.
For the trial, 112 Auckland-based psoriasis sufferers aged 18 or older, with plaque-type psoriasis in ‘active phase’ and stable for the past two months are needed. Volunteers must meet certain criteria and be able to attend five appointments at the Albany-based Human Nutrition Research Unit for assessments and samples over a one-year period. They don’t need to have a doctor’s referral and will be screened by a dermatologist before being accepted to the trial.
Ms Ingram says people with psoriasis often avoid normal activities such as swimming and going to the hairdresser when the condition is active, and it can have a significant impact on their self-esteem.
“Simple decisions, like what to wear, can become a major exercise in decision-making. Add that to the daily list of treatments that currently need to be endured, and living with psoriasis becomes very stressful. If we are able to prove that vitamin D can help relieve the symptoms of psoriasis, that’s a big step towards helping people with psoriasis lead a more normal life.”
The Vitamin D Research Centre will form part of Massey’s new College of Health in 2013, which will focus on illness and injury prevention rather than cure. The college will bring together specialists from fields ranging from food and nutrition, sport and exercise, rehabilitation, nursing, Māori and Pasifika health, public health, social work, health and safety, as well as researching the social and economic factors that underpin health and wellbeing.