The Facts of Vitamin D (What We Think We Know)

Can Vitamin D Prevent or Ameliorate Covid-19 Infections?

Previous research has reported that vitamin D can increase the incidence and severity of infectious diseases like influenza or the common cold. The question remains as to whether this applies to Covid-19 infections. During these times, people are searching for a new way out to combat this virus as more reports of vaccine dangers (legitimate or not) become the major news of the day. The purpose of this post is to educate on the facts about about vitamin D as an alternative.

The primary role of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation and muscle function.  A deficiency can also increase the risk of chronic inflammation, a common cause of several major chronic diseases.

Vitamin D is produced to its most active form from cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common. It is reported that vitamin D deficiency can be common in the elderly, homebound or darker skinned individuals. Obesity is another risk factor for severe COVID-19 and low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in these patients.

Another primary function of Vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation and can stimulate the release of anti-microbial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. A study at Northwestern University suggests that vitamin D could suppress what is known as the “cytokine storm” that has been reported to be fatal in some coronavirus patients.

People are scrambling to the supplement stores for vitamin D, but there are certain caveats to supplementation at high doses of any supplement on the market, including vitamin D.  Here is what you should know about its efficacy and/or safety.

It can become very easy to be deficient in vitamin D since it is found in very few foods like fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk (not commonly found in the highly processed Standard American Diet).

It is recommended that people ask their doctors for a blood test to determine their vitamin D status.  Deficiency is defined as a blood level below 10 nanograms per milliliter. Blood levels of 20-50 nanograms per milliliter are generally considered normal.

The Institute of Medicine recommend that most adults get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D from food and supplements daily or 800 IU if they are 70 years or older. Most experts agree that D is safe at doses up to 2000 IU and that 4000 IU a day is established as the Tolerable Upper Intake. The dose you take should be established by your physician and your blood levels. Toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily.

The consequences of overdose include:

  • Mental retardation in young children
  • Abnormal bone growth and formation.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss.
  • Deposition of calcium and organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.

What the Research Shows

A recent study at the University of Chicago reviewed the medical records of about 4300 patients who had been tested for COVID-19 early last spring. After controlling for factors like age, race, and chronic medical illness, they found that people with a vitamin D deficiency (defined as less than 20 nanograms/millilter of blood) before the pandemic began were 77% more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to people who had normal levels of vitamin D.

 Other studies have mixed results, however, there is enough compelling evidence to suggest that a randomized trial is needed to specially test to see whether assigning people to take vitamin D every day will reduce the severity of their illness, if infected. However, it is important to know the facts of overdosing any dietary supplement on the market since none have been under any scrutiny as to safety and efficacy. Consult with your primary physician.

Source:

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition

Anahad O’Connor, Exploring the Links Between Coronovirus and Vitamin D. The New York Times, June 10, 2020.

DIET AND YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

Eating certain foods may weaken or help boost the immune system.

In general, try to avoid diets that are low in fiber and high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods. These foods may suppress immune function.

On the other hand, eating foods that contain zinc, citrus fruits, garlic, ginger, and cruciferous vegetables may contribute to healthy immune function.

These foods have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help keep a person healthy and reduce disease risk.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help maintain a person’s immune system so that it can fight disease while reducing chronic inflammation.

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COVID-19: Immune Boosters or Snake Oil?

Are We Just Talking Snake Oil?

In these days of the pandemic, there are promises and claims made that can cure or prevent the COVID-19 virus from occurring. Should you believe these claims or are they just snake oil? Sadly, most are not proven, and no safety or efficacy has been established. Some have stood the test of time as folklore, others, not so much.   I am not a promotor of taking diet supplements unless a doctor says you are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals.  But here is what is known about a few that can possibly end up on Dr. OZ.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins C, D, A and the minerals zinc and selenium can be grouped together as they may help by shortening the duration of primarily respiratory diseases (colds, flu and Coronovirus).  Vitamin C and D both can act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory compound. You can get required amounts as a multi-vitamin-mineral compound – there is no need to take them individually or use mega-doses.

Garlic

Fresh, aged extract and garlic supplements may reduce the severity of respiratory infections. It has been described as: lipid-lowering, antithrombotic, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antiparastitic. Garlic has also been shown to fight the common cold (often caused by Coronoviruses.)  It also should be mentioned that in the world’s oldest medical text, the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, garlic is mentioned repeatedly. It was also reported that it was fed to slaves and soldiers in the ancient world to keep them healthy. And of course we all know that it has warded off vampires in almost any Dracula movie in history.

But back to research – Seventy patients were given a high-quality standardized garlic supplement for 12 weeks while another group were given a placebo. The garlic group had only 24 colds during the study, compared to 65 for the placebo group. The average duration of symptoms was less than half for those taking the garlic.

Of course, this is only one study, however, the active garlic ingredient called allicin was written about way back in 1944 in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemistry Society.

Beta-glucans – What are They?

Beta-glucans are large molecules made up of multiple sugar units—beta-glucan may offer a number of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, improving blood sugar management, and boosting the immune system. As a soluble fiber, beta-glucan itself is not digested, however, it slows food transit in the intestines. Studies report when beta-glucans bind to immune cells like natural killer cells (NK cells), T-cells and macrophages, the activity of these cells is increased.

Many studies have supported the idea beta-glucans have a wide range of protective effects, including improved resistance to infections, liver protection, and cardiovascular benefits. It also appears to help inhibit tumor growth in mice. Americans need more fiber in their diets – so this compound can help provide the amount we need daily.

Sulforaphane

“Sulforaphane has also been shown to have antiviral properties. Studies have shown that sulforaphane reduces viral load in the nose, increases NK (natural killer)  cell production, displays antiviral activity against H1N1 Influenza virus, and can suppress replication of Hepatitis C Virus and inhibit HIV infection of macrophages through Nrf2. Interestingly, heat shock proteins which are produced upon sulforaphane consumption are also known to have antiviral properties. This is a quote from the web page, Orthomolecular.org. This site promotes using megadoses of nutrients and claims are made that have not been investigated (to my knowledge).

NOTE: Since sulforaphane can be easily obtained by consuming cruciferous vegetables that include broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. No need to take ultra-processed supplements that may not contain any or all of the  beneficial nutrients found in “real” foods. Sulforaphane is also purported to be a potent cancer fighter and there is some evidence to support these claims.

Elderberry

Elderberries are the dark purple fruit of the elderberry shrub. A rich source of antioxidants known as anthocyanins, elderberry is reputed by some to be effective in treating the common cold, flu, constipation, hay fever, and sinus infections. Others contend that it may be useful in treating toothache, sciatica, and burns, among other things, but some of these claims are less supported by research than others.

The European elder (black elderberry, Sambucus nigra) is the species most often used in supplements, although other elder species also produce anthocyanin-rich berries. There are several elderberry supplement options and preparations, such as gummies, lozenges, syrups, teas, and more.

Many of elderberry’s health benefits can be attributed to anthocyanin. As an antioxidant, anthocyanin works by clearing the body of free radicals that damage cells at the DNA level.1 It also has antiviral properties that may prevent or reduce the severity of certain common infections.

Elderberry also exerts anti-inflammatory effects, reducing swelling and pain by tempering the body’s immune response.

Elderberry juice syrup has been used for centuries as a home remedy to treat the cold and flu, both of which are caused by a virus. The syrup is believed to reduce the severity and duration of the infection if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. Some preliminary evidence from small studies supports this claim.

A 2016 study from Australia reported that, among 312 long-haul airline passengers, those who used elderberry extract 10 days before and five days after their flight had 50 percent fewer sick days resulting from a cold than those who didn’t.  In addition, passengers who used elderberry had less severe colds based on a scoring of upper respiratory tract symptoms.

What elderberry did not appear to do was reduce the risk of getting a cold; both the elderberry group and placebo group had more or less the same number of infections.

However, a 2012 study suggested that elderberry could help prevent influenza infection by stimulating an immune response. Choose a low-sugar capsule or tablet, not as a sugary syrup.

Source: Elderberry: Benefits and Dangers.  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/elderberry

 Buyer Beware

If you choose a supplement, take them in moderation and inform your doctor as some could be antagonistic toward other prescription drugs you have been prescribed. Keep in mind the following found on dietary supplement labels: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not inteneded to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any dieaase.”

Sources:

University of Maryland Medical System: Immunity Support Boosters

For a comprehensive list (it’s very long), search COVID-19 Schemes, Scams and Misinformation,

Stephen Barrett, M.D., William M. London, Ed.D, MPH July 18, 2020

COVID-19 and Vitamin D?

Can Vitamin D Prevent or Ameliorate Covid-19 Infections?

Previous research has reported that vitamin D can increase the incidence and severity of infectious diseases like influenzas or the common cold. The question remains as to whether this applies to Covid-19 infections.

The primary role of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation and muscle function.  A deficiency can also increase the risk of chronic inflammation, a common cause of several major chronic diseases.

Vitamin D is produced to its most active form from cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common. It is reported that vitamin D deficiency can be common in the elderly, homebound or darker skinned individuals. Obesity is another risk factor for severe COVID-19 and low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in these patients.

Another primary function of Vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation and can stimulate the release of anti-microbial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. A study at Northwestern University suggests that vitamin D could suppress what is known as the “cytokine storm” that has been reported be fatal in some coronavirus patients.

People are scrambling to the supplement stores for vitamin D, but there are certain caveats to supplementation at high doses of any supplement on the market, including vitamin D.  Here is what you should know about its efficacy and/or safety.

It can become very easy to be deficient in vitamin D since it is found in very few foods like fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk (not commonly found in the highly processed Standard American Diet).

It is recommended that people ask their doctors for a blood test to determine their vitamin D status.  Deficiency is defined as a blood level below 10 nanograms per milliliter. Blood levels of 20-50 nanograms per milliliter are generally considered normal.

The Institute of Medicine recommend that most adults get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D from food and supplements daily or 800 IU if they are 70 years or older. Most experts agree that D is safe at doses up to 2000 IU and that 4000 IU a day is established as the Tolerable Upper Intake. The dose you take should be established by your physician and your blood levels. Toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily.

The consequences of overdose include:

  • Mental retardation in young children
  • Abnormal bone growth and formation.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss.
  • Deposition of calcium and organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.

What the Research Shows

A recent study at the University of Chicago reviewed the medical records of about 4300 patients who had been tested for COVID-19 early last spring. After controlling for factors like age, race, and chronic medical illness, they found that people with a vitamin D deficiency before the pandemic began were 77% more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to people who had normal levels of vitamin D.

 Other studies have mixed results, however some researchers feel that there is enough compelling evidence to suggest that a randomized trial is needed to specifically test to see whether assigning people to take vitamin D every day will reduce the severity of their illness, if infected. People are bombarded recently with supplement companies promoting high doses of vitamin D – trials are also needed for consumers to make intelligent and safe choices regarding their health.

Source:

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition

Anahad O’Connor, Exploring the Links Between Coronovirus and Vitamin D. The New York Times, June 10, 2020.

Vitamin D: An Update At A Glance

Several posts have explained the role of vitamin D in immunity and and thus the Covid virus – (can search on this blog under Infectious Disease). This post is simply an update about the expanded role of vitamin D status.

WHAT You Need to Know Vitamin’s Immune Benefits

More than 70% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D supports the immune system’s response to illnesses of all kinds which may include COVID-19.

Past studies show that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased rates and severity of viral infections.

Clinical trials have shown that vitamin D has a protective effect against respiratory tract infections.

Vitamin D and Viral Illness

Vital respiratory tract infections, such as flu, are more common during winter. One of the reasons for this may be seasonal variations in our vitamin D levels. During winter, we get less sun, leading to lower vitamin D production. That puts us at increased risk for viral infection. Low vitamin D is also a risk for more severe lung disease called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This condition can lead to what is called a cytokine storm with hyper- production of inflammatory factors that can lead to death.

Vitamin D’s Protective Action

Vitamin D contributes to many functions that help shield the body from infections and lessen their severity. Maintaing adequate levels of vitamin D:

Interferes with the ability of viruses to replicate and produce more viral particles.

Helps support and repair heathly cellular linings in the body, including the airways of the lungs.

Increases production of proteins that shield against bacteria and viruses, enhancing the ability of cells to protect themselves from infection.

Improves the ability of immune cells to mount an effective attack against specific viruses.

Helps prevent the immune system from going overboard and producing excessive pro-inflammatory compounds in the lungs.

Summary:

Unfortunately, vitamin D is found naturally in few foods in the diet. These are fish and seafood, fortified breakfast cereals, orange juice, regular milk, rice milk, soy milk, yogurt, and margarine Therefore, an oral supplement may be necessary. If you think you may not get enough D in your diet, please see your physician to discuss the benefits and side effects of vitamin D supplementation. There is a common blood test that he/she may suggest to indicate your blood level of this fat-soluble vitamin.

The Upper Limit is 100 mcg or 4,000 UL if you choose to take a supplement. Consequences of overdose may include: mental retardation in young children, abnormal bone growth and formation, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss, calcium deposition in organs such as kidneys, liver, and heart, toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 daily.

Nutrition Now, Judith E. Brown, 7th Edition, 2013

Life Extension November, 2020

The Nutritional State of the Nation: Does it Affect Covid-19?

A number of diseases and disorders share common risk factors of low intakes of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, excess calorie intake, body fat, and high animal fat intake. These risk factors are associated with the development of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, conditions that are strongly related to the development of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other chronic diseases that include stroke, osteoporosis, and obesity.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of five conditions: hypertension, high blood sugar, obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. These diseases are all related to our diets and other lifestyle factors – namely exercise and smoking habits.

A new study in the journal Diabetes Care is the first to look at the impact of metabolic syndrome on outcomes for Covid-19 patients. “Together, obesity, diabetes and prediabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are all predictors of higher incidences of death in these patients and were more than three times more likely to die from the disease.

“The more of these diagnoses that you have, the worse the outcomes”, says lead author Joshua Denson , assistant professor of medicine and pulmonary and critical care medicine physician at Tulane University of Medicine.

“The underlying inflammation that is seen with metabolic syndrome may be the driver that is leading to these more severe cases.” Dr. Denson adds.  In this study, the most common conditions were hypertension (80%), obesity (65%), diabetes (54%), and low HDL (39%.)

Dr. Denson would advise anyone who meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome to be vigilant in taking measures to reduce risk or exposure to the coronavirus.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, we took that into account” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chronic Inflammation: Understanding the “Cytokine Storm”

The leading causes of death among Americans are slow developing, lifestyle-related chronic diseases. This includes diabetes, heart disease,  stroke, cancer, hypertension or high cholesterol levels. Diet can often be (but not always) the underlying condition reflected as obesity.  Obesity is now considered to be a major risk factor for complications of COVID-19 infections.

A previous post  explains the role of diet in this occurrence. The post was written before the  co-morbidities   (underlying conditions) were associated with inflammation and severe COVID infections. The following well written article was initially published in The Conversation and succinctly explains how the role of inflammation can contribute to severe COVID and death often described as the “cytokine storm”.

CLICK HERE.