Vitamin D and the Flu: More about the Science

January 5, 2010
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Bill Faloon, Co-founder of Life Extension Foundation, recently summarized some of the science showing the critical role of Vitamin D in preventing and controlling infections due to the flu. An excerpt from his article in the January 2010 Life Extension Magazine follows:

Evidence that Vitamin D Combats Winter Infections

As daylight hours grow colder and shorter, incidences of the common cold, flu, and respiratory infections spike upwards. Scientists have identified reduced vitamin D levels in winter months as a prime suspect for this increase in infectious disease cases.

Vitamin D in all forms (sunlight, sun lamps, or supplements) reduces the incidence of respiratory infections.[24,26] Dutch children with the least sun exposure are twice as likely to develop a cough and three times more likely to develop a runny nose compared with children with the most sun exposure.[35]

When Russian athletes were given access to a sun lamp to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the body, there were 50% fewer respiratory infections and 300% fewer days of absence.[26]

Children with the lowest vitamin D serum levels are 11 times more likely to develop respiratory infection. When 60,000 IU per week of vitamin D was administered (for six weeks) to children with frequent respiratory infections, the result was a complete disappearance of such infections in the following six months.[36]

In a controlled trial of African women, a low dose (800 IU a day) of vitamin D resulted in a 3-fold reduction in cold and flu symptoms compared to those given placebo.[37]

Influenza kills between around 36,000 Americans each year[38]. Ensuring optimal vitamin D status could slash influenza incidence and morality.

How Vitamin D Boosts Immune Function and Suppresses Inflammation

Flu viruses (including swine flu) induce a massive inflammatory response that can kill the victim. In other words, it is not the virus that often kills, but the body’s hyper-reaction to the virus—in the form of uncontrolled over-production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D down-regulates the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha. [39]

As people age, they often over-express these same destructive pro-inflammatory cytokines. The result is chronic low-level inflammation that damages aging arteries, joints, and neurons[40-44]. By down-regulating excess pro-inflammatory cytokine production, vitamin D could save the lives of those stricken with acute influenza, or the dozens of inflammatory diseases that afflict millions of aging Americans each year.

Antimicrobial peptides are components of the immune system that protect against bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Secreted by immune cells throughout the body, antimicrobial peptides damage the outer lipid membrane of infectious agents (including influenza viruses), rending them vulnerable to eradication.

Recent studies confirm that vitamin D dramatically up-regulates the expression of these antimicrobial peptides in immune cells[45]. We now have a definitive biological mechanism to explain why vitamin D confers such dramatic protection against common winter illnesses.

What are minimum vitamin D blood levels?

When blood is tested to assess vitamin D status, what is actually measured is the metabolically active 25-hydroxyvitamin D form of the vitamin in the serum.

When data emerged about vitamin D’s role in preventing disease, experts initially recommended a minimum target blood level of 30 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

In recognition of findings showing reduced incidences of disease in those with higher vitamin D levels, the standard laboratory reference range for 25-hydroxyvitamin D was raised to 32-100 ng/mL.

Based on recent and conclusive published studies, the new minimum target level for optimal disease prevention is over 50 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.[46-51]

A startling 36%[52-55,56] of the general population has 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 20 ng/dL, which may represent the world’s leading cause of unnecessary disease and death.

For more on the extensive science behind Vitamin D, see the following:

Natural Health Science News Vitamin Research, which includes studies that explain how Vitamin D works to prevent flus and respiratory disease as well as to minimize flu symptoms

Vitamin D Council which also features numerous studies on influenza and Vitamin D

For additional discussion on Vitamin D, see any of the following:

Dr. Mercola provides a lecture covering resources, research, and recommendations on Vitamin D in addition to many other articles.

Life Extension Magazine also provides additional important articles (shown below), covering the critical role of Vitamin D and an assessment of just how Vitamin D deficient we all probably are.

Natural News provides links to more than 200 featured Vitamin D articles.

References:

24. Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):384-90.

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24 Responses to “Vitamin D and the Flu: More about the Science”

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  4. @ Janet Bogart
    Maybe your doctors have supplied ERGOCALCIFEROL 50,000iu Vitamin D2.
    This is the form animals use humans evolved to function best with D3.
    There are many people who do not absorb or metabolize this form of vitamin d2.
    Also D2 speeds up the rate of catabolism of vitamin D so compared with using D3 ergocalciferol has a far shorter useful lifespan (that’s assuming it’s absorbed and hydroxylated)
    As light degrades vitamin D it’s possible the capsules you are taking may have been exposed to light at some point.

    I prefer to take 10,000iu/daily either in MCT oil or olive oil. You can easily buy 5000iu/D3 in MCT from the usual online discount providers.

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  5. “there were 50% fewer respiratory infections and 300% fewer days of absence.”

    300% fewer is impossible. If some have 9 days of absence how can others have 9 minus 27 days of absence? I’m guessing you meant 2/3 fewer or 67% fewer or 3 days of absence.

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  6. Andy says:

    For Janet Bogart: A few thoughts regarding the dropping vitamin d levels. You may have a fat malabsorption issue or be taking medications that interfere with fat absorption. Vitamin d as a fat soluble vitamin would not be absorbed well in these cases. Additionally you may try an alternative source for your vit d supplements such as http://www.bio-tech-pharm.com as this is a FDA regulated facility with 50,000 IU capsules of D3. If fat malabsorption were the case UVB treatment – as with tanning beds during the winter or the sun in warmer months – would work fine to raise 25-OH vit d levels. Of course discuss this with your doctor and avoid sunburns if you choose this. If you have fat malabsorption you are probably deficient in other nutrients as well and this would need to be evaluated.

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  7. Ken says:

    Life Extension Foundation offers great scientific information! They have recently provided good evidence that most people should supplement with at least 5,000 IU of Vit D daily to help prevent many serious conditions.

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  8. Sunbridge Tanning says:

    Re: petition

    This is all fine and good but the problem remains: government serves those with the biggest wallet. Unless this industry can compete with the big pharma lobby and their wealth the point is moot. We also face the task of undoing the conditioning of the intentionally dumbed-down, flouridated and radiated public who have chosen to believe the lies put out by corrupt organizations as those listed by you, Bill. I don’t believe that the majority of shop owners are in a position to engage in such an endeavour and especially when many are struggling to keep their doors open in this abysmal economy. So, we need to examine much more aggressive solutions. Perish the thought but perhaps we seriously consider playing by THEIR ‘rules’?

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  9. [...] posted here: Vitamin D and the Flu: More about the Science « Alliance for … Tagged as: article, Display, editor, environment, food, health, mac, natural-health, [...]

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  10. Stop taking D3 in pill form! “Vitamin” D is produced in abundance by our body as a reaction to exposure to UVB of sunlight.
    Even “progressive” doctors are being far too careful in informing patients about the true amounts of D that is necessary. In the last century we have come to accept 400 IU’s as sufficient but in fact that amount only reflected the needs of the bare minimum that small children needed only for protection against rickets.
    In recent research it has been discovered that a vast number of cell and organ systems have D receptors and the need for D is far more closely associated to what we would get from an amount of time in sunlight (or a home unit sun bed) and that is at least 20,000 IU’s in a 20 minute exposure.
    Why would our bodies evolve with the ability to produce so much D if it wasn’t needed?
    In regards to our natural immune system, when we continue to use foreign bodies to supplant the work on nature, our bodies lose the ability to produce that which is being artificially supplied. As well, unlike nature, there is a very real toxicity level in D consumption that does not exist in our bodies with natural sunlight exposure.

    Our western system of “Health Care” is just so badly named! The medical and pharmaceutical industries are not interested in our “Health Care” because they can’t make money from healthy people. In western society we have “sickness care” the industries are geared to produce medicine and treatment to combat the actual sickness rather than trying to keep the populous from getting sick in the first place!

    Whatever your beliefs, neither G-d or mother nature would have created us or allowed us to evolve naked under the sunlight, without sunscreen, if it was going to kill us.

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  11. Knut Hjeltnes says:

    This isthe first year that I have been taking Vit. D – in addition to the Multi-Vit. I usually take – and I have had less frequent and less severe colds and flues. in addition to the Vit.D supplementation I take 800mg Ibuprofen twicw a day for a few days if I have been infected, and this really shortens and reduces the infection dramatically. This sounds almost too simple, but I believe is a much better for you than heavy antibiotic treatments every time you have an infection.

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  12. THANKS FOR GETTING THE WORD OUT AND PETITIONING THESE AGENCIES TO PAY ATTENTION—ONLY THIS KIND OF GRASS ROOTS FOCUS USING REAL SCIENCE, THAT IS READILY AVAILABLE TO THESE AGENCIES BUT WHICH THEY CHOOSE TO IGNORE IN FAVOR OF BIG PHARMA, IS GOING TO BRING ABOUT THE CHANGE WE NEED TO SEE IN HEALTH CARE—NOT MORE ACCESS TO A SEVERELY DYSFUNCTIONAL SYSTEM. IT WILL COME FROM THE BOTTOM UP NOT THE TOP DOWN. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTELLEGENCE, YOUR PASSION AND YOUR RESOLVE TO BRING POSITIVE CHANGE. I HOPE YOU DO MORE PETITIONS TO CONGRESS, GOVT HEALTH CARE AGENCIES ETC. I AM HAPPY TO SIGN THEM AS THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW WAYS I CAN MAKE MY VOICE HEARD TO THE LARGER SYSTEM. I DO IT DAILY IN MY WORK AS A FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE NURSE PRACTITIONER ONE ON ONE WITH MY PATIENTS. UNFORTUNATELY EVEN NURSE PRACTITIONER ORGANIZATIONS ARE SIMPLY SUPPORTING A VERY BROKEN SYSTEM, AND NOT MAKING USE OF THE TONS OF INFORMATION OUT THERE ABOUT HOLISTIC, NATURAL, INTEGRATIVE, FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE.

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  13. William E. Hudson says:

    I am happy that there are organizations springing up that are working for increased knowledge and participation in natural health practices. If we want to improve our health and, at the same time, reduce the cost of maintaiing good health, we need to use as many natural cures as possible. I have used natural cures for over twenty years, and I have found that my health is better–and the cost of maintaining good health has been DRASTICALLY reduced. If I feel a cold or flu coming on, I use a combination of fresh Garlic and Colloidal Silver–and if it’s the Flu, I add the AHCC mushroom complex. I can’t remember the last time I had a cold or flu that lasted more than 48 to 72 hours (and if I catch it early it’s gone even sooner). And with the new emphasis on Vitamin D, I’m taking it every day, along with a routine of natural vitamins, herbs and other natural cures. Does our government have any idea how much they could cut from our health bills with a more widespread use of natural remedies?And of course the good thing is that we would all feel much better. Thanks for listening–William Eugene Hudson ([email protected])

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  14. GERHARD WALTHER says:

    How much is 60.000 IU in Mg.?

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  15. Janet Bogart says:

    My vitamin D level has been moving lower (from 25 to 11!!) after many months of taking 50,000 iu weekly and 1200-1800 units daily. The doctors are doing the right thing but I am not responding properly. Any ideas? I doubt I will receive a reponse but don’t know where to turn with my questions.

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    • Meri Withrow says:

      Hi Janet, I was having the same problem with vitamin D. I have been working with a couple of things such as quiet meditation, really slowing my heart and adrenals down and taking suppliments to calm the adrenals. My sense is that this occurs in those of us that are always taking care of others and or working constantly without stopping to listen to our own heart and our needs. Whatever inspires and heals you and your body specifically. Sincerely, Meri

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    • Jeff Evanoff says:

      Hi Janet

      Make sure that you are taking D3 and not the D2. Also make sure that you take it with fat and take it along with all your other fat soluble vitamins. It is important for all of us to get our digestive systems healthy in order to absorb all of the good nutrition that you hopefully are taking in. Work with your doctor and continue to have your levels checked. I take mine in the early morning and this has been working well for me these last 3 years. Good luck!

      Sincerely, Jeff

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  16. Robert Hardeman says:

    I know since seeing a nutripath “instead of my reg doctor” i feel much better, and i do have several health problems includeing emphazima, and use to get sick ALOT!!!! but since going to him, i havent been sick in several months now, and he has me on Vitamin D-3 and it seems to be helping me alot, and i am so glad i went to see him…

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  17. Loretta says:

    Vitamin D3 is the key and the last D3 I bought had soybean oil and I was outrageed. What a waste! Soy prevents the absorbtion of most vital nutrients. Just talking or writing about Vitamin D just doesn’t cut it. People need info about the Sunlight Vitamin D. Sunlight at mid day for 10 to 20 minutes with out sunscreen is a good idea. No sun?? Supplement with D3.

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  18. Please let the government know that we are aware of the deliberate atrocities done daily that are taking our sun also. Areal spraying of unsuspecting people is against the law and against the Constitution of the United States of America. This is an attack on all life! This must stop!

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  19. It looks like the drug companies and mainstream medicine has again successfully covered up very good news regarding very cost effective food supplements – in this case vitamin D3. Supplements could reduce health costs dramatically if they were fully used, which they have not been, even at this late date.

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  20. Shiu Hung says:

    No forced vaccinations. We need genuine health care reform with a Single Payer system, not punitive mandates that will generate tremendous profits for insurance & pharmaceutical monopolies.

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    • Mike in MI says:

      Mr. SHIU – -
      Why do you think BOMB’R'CARE is a feint, intermediate step, “statue of liberty” play of the OBOMBer Admin to get us moving to Single Payer? They want this to ultimately cede to the traditional allopathic community, Pharma/Food Chemical Industries (via FDA oversight and regulation) and national disease production cabal complete eradication of all use of natural substances like (but not limitted to) Vitamin D3. This works better than vaccines and produces none of the seconary effects and chronic health problems which their methods and strategies foist on us. If they get anything to start toward total Single Payer they will make all alternative, integrative, complementary, natural and informational resource for them disappear. They will control research and investigation to only those therapies that will support their (presently obsolete) approaches to health theory, diagnosis, testing, care and recuperation. If you think what they do is expensive now, well, what do you think it will be like when you have absolutely no recourse except a different provider who can only give you more of the same – by law?

      If you are that much of a reflex knee jerk, think-inside-the-box, welfare brain then, please, find someone in your community who can teach you about health – like a chiropractor, health foods store owner, nutritionist (not a dietitian) or natural health professional. Then decide if you think Government health control is a good idea or not.

      What is ore beneficial for you? You can learn to take responsibility for keeping yourself strong and healthy. Or, you can surrender decisions and control to businessmen who only make money if you are sick.

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  21. [...] Vitamin D and the Flu: More about the Science Bill Faloon, Co-founder of Life Extension Foundation, recently summarized some of the science showing the critical role of Vitamin D in preventing and controlling infections due to the flu. An excerpt from his article in the January 2010 Life Extension Magazine follows: Click here to learn more » [...]

       0 likes

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