There is confusion out there about vitamin D in health and disease. In other words, I thought it would be useful to review some basics about vitamin D and how it can help you to benefit from it. Last year an overview about this topic was published. Notably, a lack of vitamin D causes rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. A vitamin D blood level with vitamin D deficiency is typically below 15 ng/ml.
For one thing, it was Adolf Windaus, a German chemist, who won the 1928 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research on vitamin D and related compounds. But it took several more decades before the vitamin D receptor was detected on most body cells including T cells that regulate the immune system. Vitamin D acts like a hormone and regulates the expression of more than 900 genes. This means that vitamin D has an involvement in a lot of physical functions.
Diseases where vitamin D deficiency is one of the causes
The following conditions have an association with vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D and the immune system
In a 2008 study it was noted that low levels of vitamin D in the blood caused a higher rate of infection with tuberculosis. The authors recommend that someone diagnosed with tuberculosis should supplement with vitamin D3 to strengthen the immune system.
This publication noticed that newborns who had a blood vitamin D level of less than 20 ng/mL at birth had a six times higher risk of developing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) when 1 year old than those newborns whose vitamin D level was more than 30 ng/mL at birth. Vitamin D when present in high enough concentration seems to stimulate the immune system to suppress RSV-virus induced bronchiolitis.
A 2017 publication found that vitamin D supplementation suppressed the amount of respiratory infections a person experienced. When people had low levels of less than 25 ng/ml, the protective effect of the vitamin was 70 % stronger. If people had higher levels above 25 ng/ml, the protective effect of vitamin D was 25 %.
A 2016 study showed that patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema) have lower vitamin D levels. However, at this point there is no consensus whether vitamin D3 supplementation would help this disease.
A 2016 Cochrane study showed that a higher vitamin D level had an association with better control of asthma. Supplementation of vitamin D3 led to a 37% reduction in the use of systemic glucocorticosteroids. It also reduced the risk of at least one asthmatic exacerbation that led to an emergency room visit or hospitalization by 61%. The effect of vitamin D3 supplementation likely is due to the anti-inflammatory effect of vitamin D as well as the immune stimulating effect.
Other systemic effects of a lack of vitamin D
Observational studies have shown that there is an association between vitamin D deficiency and high blood pressure. In addition, there is also an association with heart attacks, musculoskeletal pain, migraines and the risk of cancers. In addition, neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, depression and dementia also showed an association to low levels of vitamin D. However, there is a lack of publications whether higher doses of vitamin D would prevent these illnesses.
Role of vitamin D3 supplementation with Covid-19 Coronavirus infection
Here is evidence from US researchers that states that higher doses of vitamin D3 will mitigate the course of influenza and of Covid-19 coronavirus. The researchers outlined vitamin D has 3 effects:
- Maintaining tight epithelial junctions making it more difficult for the Covid-19 coronavirus to penetrate.
- “Killing enveloped viruses through induction of cathelicidin and defensins.” These powerful antiviral polypeptides can kill viruses that have invaded the blood stream within 1 to 2 days.
- “…And reducing production of proinflammatory cytokines by the innate immune system, thereby reducing the risk of a cytokine storm leading to pneumonia.” It is people who get the viral pneumonia that are at a high risk of death. By bringing the blood level up to the higher range of normal, between 50 and 80 ng/mL, patients that have encountered Covid-19 coronavirus are more likely to survive.
This blog outlines the far reaching effects of vitamin D. It stimulates the vitamin D receptors that are present in most tissues of the body. Vitamin D controls the immune system, reduces respiratory infections and stabilizes atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin condition. Apart from preventing rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia vitamin D also controls asthma to a large extent. Recently researchers found out that vitamin D also can fight Covid-19 coronavirus through 3 mechanisms that work hand in hand. This is the reason why those with higher vitamin D supplementation will not develop the deadly viral pneumonia. Those low in vitamin D are prone to develop this, others with high vitamin D levels don’t.