Mussel Intake and Vitamin D Status in Humans

2016-12-05 17:23:21 | BioPortfolio


A significant proportion of the United Kingdom population have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones through increasing dietary calcium absorption within the body. A low vitamin D status has also been associated with other diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer (especially colorectal cancer), cardiovascular disease and type 1 diabetes. Our skin is able to synthesise vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight in summer. If exposure to sunlight is limited, then a dietary supply of vitamin D becomes essential.

However, very few foods contain vitamin D. Among the best dietary sources of vitamin D are oily fish (including salmon, mackerel, herring and trout) and fish oils. Recently, we found that certain shellfish, especially mussels, contain significant amounts of a metabolite of vitamin D, 25(OH)D3. Consumption of this metabolite, as a supplement, has already been shown to improve vitamin D status in humans. Whether consumption of mussels improves vitamin D status is unknown.

In this study we will be investigating whether consumption of 1, 2 or 3 portions of mussels per week for 12 weeks increases vitamin D status in healthy people.


Vitamin D, the main forms being vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol), is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids which are synthesised from ergosterol in fungi and yeast, or from 7-dehydrocholesterol in humans [1], animals including fish [2] and plants [3] including microalgae [4,5], upon exposure to UV radiation. The metabolically inert vitamin D3 is then converted into 25-hydroxy D3 (25(OH)D3) and subsequently into 1α,25-dihydroxy D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) [1].

A significant proportion of the global population have inadequate vitamin D levels - as defined by a plasma 25(OH)D concentration of <25 nM, [6] - a level where the risk of poor musculoskeletal health appears to increase, which is especially apparent in older children, younger adults, older institutionalised individuals and infants from black and ethnic minority groups [7]. Data from the NDNS and other studies suggest that between 29 and 54% of various population groups in the UK have a serum 25(OH)D concentration < 25 nmol/L in the winter. However, summer synthesis of vitamin D, facilitating maintenance of winter serum 25(OH)D concentration ≥ 25 nmol/L is clearly not occurring for many in the UK population (Consultation on draft SACN Vitamin D and Health report). If there is inadequate vitamin D3 synthesis within the skin, generally caused by limited exposure to sunlight, then a dietary supply of vitamin D becomes essential.

Overall however, very few foods contain vitamin D. Among the best dietary sources of vitamin D are oily fish (including salmon, mackerel, herring and trout) and fish oils, providing up to 20g of vitamin D per 100 g [8]. Lower amounts of vitamin D are present in red meat, liver and egg yolks (approximately 1-5g/100 g). Vitamin D in these foods and in fish is primarily in the form of vitamin D3 and its metabolite 25(OH)D3 [9].

Recently, we have found that certain shellfish, especially mussels, contain significant amounts of 25(OH)D3, ranging from 0.7 to 9.9 µg/100 g wet weight. Thus far, food composition databases give either very low or no values for levels of vitamin D in shellfish. The amount of vitamin D3 in mussels is either reported to be below the detection limit, or is not analysed, in mussels in the food database analysis [10,11,12,13]. The importance of finding 25(OH)D3 rather than vitamin D3 in mussels is illustrated by the fact that this metabolite is considered 5 times more effective in raising serum 25(OH)D3 levels in humans, and thus vitamin D status, than vitamin D3 itself [14,15]. An interesting parallel with meat appears. Meat contains little native vitamin D but as better measurement techniques detected more metabolites of vitamin D, which were considered to be more potent, these have been added to food composition tables [11]. Indeed, the apparent increase in vitamin D intakes in the British household food data, in 1995 and 1996, is a direct result of including the potency factor for meat [16]. Taking account of this potency factor, mussels could provide up to 50g of vitamin D per 100g. Whether consumption of mussels improves vitamin D status in humans is however, not known.

According to exploratory meta-regression analyses of RCT data in a number of European (51-60°N) winter-based, dose-related RCTs which used supplemental doses of vitamin D between 0-20 μg/d, have reported vitamin D-serum 25(OH)D concentration slope estimates of 1.55-2.43 nmol/L increment per 1 μg vitamin D (Consultation on draft SACN Vitamin D and Health report). Thus 1, 2 and 3 portions of mussels per week, providing the equivalent of approx. 2.7, 5.4 and 8.0 mg/day (including the potency factor of 5) may increase serum levels of 25(OH)D3 by 4.2-6.6 nmol/L for 1 portion of mussels per week, 8.4-13.1 nmol/L for 2 portions per week or 12.4-19.4 nmol/L for 3 portions of mussels per week

Study Design

Allocation: Randomized, Endpoint Classification: Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Single Blind (Investigator), Primary Purpose: Prevention


Cardiovascular Disease


No Mussels, One mussel portion, Two mussel portions, Three mussel portions


University of Aberdeen, The Rowett Institute
United Kingdom
AB25 2ZD




University of Aberdeen

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2016-12-05T17:23:21-0500

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

A species of mussel in the genus MYTILUS, family MYTILIDAE, class BIVALVIA, known as the common mussel. It has a bluish-black shell and is highly edible.

A genus of marine mussels in the family MYTILIDAE, class BIVALVIA. The species MYTILUS EDULIS is the highly edible common mussel.

A genus of freshwater mussel in the family MYTILIDAE, class BIVALVIA. It is found in tropical and warm temperate coastal waters. Most species have green in their shells.

The portion of the GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT between the PYLORUS of the STOMACH and the ILEOCECAL VALVE of the LARGE INTESTINE. It is divisible into three portions: the DUODENUM, the JEJUNUM, and the ILEUM.

The volatile portions of chemical substances perceptible by the sense of smell.

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