The start of an influenza epidemic has made the headlines and it appears it will be worse then recent years. News reports indicate that at least 25% of people getting the flu had this year’s influenza vaccination prior to the outbreak. Complicating the issue is that many reports focus on “flu like illnesses and assume that this is the flu. The only way a definite diagnosis can be made is a special throat or nasal culture which tends to be expensive, and is usually reserved for those who are sick
enough to be hospitalized. A clinical diagnosis is suggested by high fevers over 101 degrees, severe musle aches, and sore throat. Many people use the term flu very loosely in describing gastroenteritis symptoms only – nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Influenza is a serious issue. There have been deaths confirmed by cultures in the past month.
On September 12, 2010, I posted #14, Prevention of Influenza With Vitamin D. There was a very well performed study published in the May, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This study is still on the web and free for anyone to read. Simply google the name of the Journal. The test was very rigorous, and used nose/throat cultures to confirm the diagnosis of influenza A. The dose of the vitamin D given for 4 months before the winter was only 1200 Units. The study was double lind so there is no way any bias of the researchers would have changed the results.
The full details of the study can be read by going to #14 on this health letter. But in summary, there was a 41.9% reduction in the incidence of the flu. An unexpected result was that there was an 83% reduction of asthma attacks in those children who had a history of asthma. This makes sense since asthma is clearly a disease caused by antibodies and vitamin D has clearly been shown in studies to reduce the production of abnormal antibodies that cause disease.
So whereas just about everyone is scared of the flu and the serious illness and even sometimes death it can cause, but are you scared enough to have your doctor obtain a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test (covered by most health insurance), and spend $2 a month for 5000 units a day of Vitamin D3 which most people need with an occasional exception?
The news of the flu epidemic has been very well publicized through international newspapers, but there has been no mention of this study from October, 2010. I wrote in the column October, 2010, “Unfortunately we CANNOT rely on the press to keep us informed of critically important medical studies.”
As you probably know by now, vitamin D primarily comes from the action of the sun on the skin. Just about everyone agrees that human life began near the equator. So vitamin D levels of early humans were very high. Modern studies show that 50 to 100 nanogram (ng) levels were common, and have been shown to have substantial benefit on human health. It is impossible to get enough vitamin D from diet. 4 glasses of cow’s milk contain 400 units, and most of it was added by the milk manufacturer. A
human being going with insufficient vitamin D is like an automobile being driven without oil. This comparison helps explain why vitamin D has a beneficial effect on so many conditions found in humans.
What has been known for over a century is the connection between vitamin D and bone strength. Vitamin D greatly increases the absorption of calcium from our diet, and that calcium helps maintain bone strength. Osteoporosis has been a household word for over 25 years, but the emphasis was put on calcium supplements, and vitamin D levels were not obtained. It was not appreciated that vitamin D insufficiency in Americans is widespread (80% are insufficient). Once the vitamin D level reaches at least 40 ng., calcium absorption from simple foods such as fruits and vegetables increases up to 90%. Studies have shown at this level the parathyroid glands in the neck stop producing excess parathyroid hormone. This hormone is the basic cause of the osteoporosis that is so prevalent and is the primary cause of broken bones as we age. The big medical mistake of 1985 to 2005 was the recommendation that humans need only 600 units of vitamin D daily, an amount far too little, and an amount that will not raise blood levels of vitamin D more than 4 ng. The effect on bones is by far the easiest beneficial effect to demonstrate. I have seen a number of people who have improved their DEXA scan by 15% within 2 years with 5000 units of vitamin D alone. Numerous studies show the same thing.
My update of 2011 lists 4 broad categories of diseases that benefit
from vitamin D. For each category, hundreds of studies prove the benefit. In the year 2012, each month has seen at least 5 major studies published in medical publications proving a beneficial effect on various illnesses. I have not seen even one newspaper article reporting these many studies. There was however one study that made the news. Someone studied the effect of 600 units of vitamin D on various illnesses and found no effect. The bizarre conclusion was that it’s not worth it to take vitamin D. The truth is that many studies had already shown the lack of beneficial effect from such a small dose.
You have also probably heard of the November 2010 study published by the impressive sounding Institute of Medicine that concluded we should take 600 units of vitamin D. They ignored most of the vitamin D studies that had been done over the past few decades and then claimed insufficient proof. They didn’t fool the scientists and physicians at the Harvard School of Public Health, who quickly published a complete refutation of their report. The original report made the front page of virtually every major newspaper; the response didn’t make any newspapers.