- An analysis of medical records revealed a direct correlation between levels of vitamin D and the severity of illness in people infected with SARS-CoV-2
- Low vitamin D levels are normally found in people with dark skin. This may be a compelling factor in the higher rates of COVID-19 illness and mortality
- The U.K. recommends vitamin D supplementation during this pandemic, concerned people are not getting enough sunlight; yet the U.S. continues to focus on drugs and vaccine production
- Vitamin D needs vary widely, so it's important to get your levels tested before deciding how much vitamin D3 supplement you should take
There is strong scientific evidence vitamin D plays a central role in your immune response and your ability to fight infections. In this video, Ivor Cummins, biochemist and chief program officer for Irish Heart Disease Awareness, explains how recent studies supporting higher levels of vitamin D may reduce your risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19.
He also singles out some of the conditions associated with low vitamin D levels, such as low sun exposure, insulin resistance and high levels of inflammation.
In 2017, a review of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials using vitamin D2 or D3 was published in the BMJ.1 The data revealed vitamin D supplementation was "safe and it protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall." They found people who were most deficient experienced the greatest benefit.
I am beyond excited to announce a groundbreaking new study by an organization that we have supported for over 13 years, GrassRootsHealth. Many of you have ordered their vitamin D test in the past, and the funds from that were used to do this clinical trial that could change the entire treatment strategy for COVID-19.
A recent clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of vitamin D against COVID-19 was announced April 3, 2020.2 Days later, Mark Alipio — who received no funding for his work — published a preprint letter3,4 in which he released data from an analysis of 212 people with lab-confirmed COVID-19 and for whom there were serum 25(OH)D levels available. Y
Using a classification of symptoms based on previous research, he employed statistical analysis to compare the differences in clinical outcomes against the levels of vitamin D. Of the 212 people, 49 had mild disease; 59 had ordinary disease; 56 were severe and 48 were critical.
Public Health England is recommending their citizens take a vitamin D supplement while they are spending more time indoors.22 The National Health Service23 routinely recommends their citizens take a supplement during the fall and winter months. They also recommend a supplement all year round for those who aren't outdoors, are in a care home, usually cover all their skin or have dark skin.
The chief nutritionist at Public Health England is concerned that Britons may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight as they spend more time indoors. They counsel their citizens that while an adequate amount of vitamin D cannot stop an infection, it does have benefits, including improved outcomes in those who are deficient.24
Yet, despite radical changes in the way people are living during the pandemic, the guidelines in the U.S. have not changed. The National Institutes of Health recommends that most people get their nutrients from food and beverages, including fortified food products. However, dietary intake is not sufficient to maintain healthy levels:25
"Dietary intake of vitamin D from natural foods traditionally plays only a minor role with few available natural sources: animal sources such as fatty fish, cod liver oil, or egg yolks contain vitamin D3, and fungal sources such as mushrooms and yeast exposed to sunlight or UV radiation contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)."
The U.S. health agencies appear to have little interest in helping the public support their immune system through appropriate nutrition but would rather rely on drugs and vaccines.
Some Public Health Officials Recognize Value of Vitamin D
Although the official recommendation from government agencies is to wait for drugs and a vaccine, some are speaking out. Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden wrote an opinion piece for Fox News in which he suggests vitamin D may reduce COVID-19 mortality rates, especially in those who are deficient.26
He goes on to say supplementation has reduced the "risk of respiratory infections, regulates cytokine production and can limit the risk of other viruses such as influenza." Much of the damage from COVID-19 occurs with a "cytokine storm," during which the body's inflammatory system goes into high gear, damaging organs and increasing mortality rates.
The evidence of seasonality of some viral infections may be related to vitamin D production that declines during the winter months. Seasonal changes in infection rates are more evident in northern climates, and little or none in areas that are warm all year. He concluded:27
"We can do lots of things to improve our resistance to infection. These include getting regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, stopping smoking and other tobacco use, and, for people living with diabetes, getting it under control. Taking a multivitamin that includes Vitamin D, or a Vitamin D supplement, probably can't hurt, and it might help.
As we continue to work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, anything we can do to strengthen our resistance is a step in the right direction."
Dr. John C. Umhau is a public health specialist at the National Institutes of Health. In an article in MedPageToday he referenced his review in which he argued there were groups who were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency, including those who are obese, the elderly and those with dark skin. Yet vitamin D is one of the:28
"most studied and most important host factor impacting survival from COVID-19 ... A government-sponsored research strategy to address this issue has not been developed, as officials explained that there was no mandate to explore an alternative to the existing vaccination program.
However, other researchers picked up the ball and provided convincing evidence that vitamin D could reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infection."
In further evidence published in Nutrients,29 scientists reviewed how vitamin D can reduce the risk of infection by lowering the rate at which the virus replicates and reduce the pro-inflammatory cytokines that damage the lungs, leading to pneumonia. Vitamin D also helps increase concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines that may help protect the lungs. The researchers recommended those at risk take:
"10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40–60 ng/mL (100–150 nmol/L)."
Individuals Dosages Vary Widely — Test To Be Sure
Although the researchers recommended a specific amount of vitamin D3 to take, it's impossible to predict how much supplementation you personally may need unless your blood level is measured. Typically, ranges are from 2,000 to 10,000 units (IUs) per day, but there are many variables that contribute to this dose — that is why testing is so important.
By testing at home you can stay away from hospitals unless you're having symptoms of a worsening respiratory infection, such as difficulty breathing. Ideally, you'd like your level to be 60 ng/mL.
GrassrootsHealth makes testing easy by offering an inexpensive vitamin D testing kit as part of its consumer-sponsored research. All revenues from these kits go directly to GrassrootsHealth. I make no profit from these kits and only provide them as a service of convenience to my readers.
For more information about supporting your immune system, fighting the SARS-CoV-2 virus and additional nutraceuticals that have demonstrated a positive effect on your immune system or fighting viral infections, see "Quercetin and Vitamin D — Allies Against Coronavirus?"
Interesting Note on Fauci and Vitamin D
As reviewed in an earlier article, long before SARS-CoV-2 became part of everyday life, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), believed vitamin C and D were important strategies for enhancing your body's immune system. Just four years ago, he was interviewed by a reporter from Washingtonian on how to avoid getting sick.
He explained the importance of washing your hands, clipping your nails and getting enough sleep. A fourth strategy he discussed was using vitamin C and D supplements:30
"It can enhance your body's defense against microbes. I take 1,000 milligrams a day. Many people also do not get enough vitamin D, which affects a lot of body functions, so that would be helpful, too."
In the current pandemic, the U.S. has placed inexpensive, patent-free nutritional supplements in second place to drugs and vaccines, which come with a high price tag in addition to unwelcome side effects.
In a more recent interview with RealClearPolitics, Fauci appeared to hedge his opinion. He stressed the viability of vitamin C as an antioxidant that's "essentially totally harmless unless you take in a ridiculous amount."
But when asked whether vitamin D might mitigate some respiratory infections, he said: there's "no definitive proof." He did point out, though, that you're not likely to get hurt by it.31 Still, his answers suggest an unwillingness to admit vitamin D plays a proven and important role in infectious disease.
Might Fauci's backpedaling on vitamins C and D have anything to do with the fact that he serves on the Leadership Council for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Vaccine Action Plan? He describes his litmus test for safety and effectiveness as being tied to randomized control trials:32
"That's why you keep hearing me over and over again saying the best optimal way is to do a randomized control trial to determine as quickly as possible whether something works, and if it does, get it out there. If it doesn't, get it off the table."
In what appears contradictory to this statement, Fauci said a vaccine may be released in the next 12 to 18 months.33 However, the standard steps to develop a relatively "safe" vaccine averages five years. It begins with two to four years of laboratory research, followed by one to two years of preclinical studies, and then Phase I, II and III trials.34