NMU 166 – The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease – Covid-19, 2019 infection and mortality
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 166 (June 2, 2020)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease – Covid-19, 2019 infection and mortality
Source: Journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research (May 2020)
In recent Lifestyle Medicine Updates I have cited research showing that individuals with a blood vitamin D level above 75 or 80 nmol/L (and below 140 nmol/L) were in the best position to prevent viral-induced respiratory tract infections and/or to reduce the severity of the infection should one arise. Regarding the Covid-19 virus, early observations showed that European countries where blood vitamin D levels are known to be low have been the hardest hit regarding deaths from Covid-19. In May 2020, an updated report was published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, which highlighted the increasingly strong link between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of death from Covid-19. The researcher explains that The European Calcified Tissue Society Working Group has defined “severe vitamin D deficiency” as a blood vitamin D level lower than 30 nmol/L. So, anything below 30 nmol/L is considered a severe deficiency of vitamin D. Remember that an ideal value is between 80 and 140nmol/L.
The Seneca study showed that the average vitamin D blood level in older individuals in Spain is 26 nmol/L and in Italy, it’s 28 nmol/, whereas higher levels of 45 nmol/L are found in Nordic countries. In Switzerland, the average vitamin D level is 23 nmol/L in nursing homes and in Italy, 76% of women over 70 years of age have vitamin D levels below 30 nmol/L. These are the countries with a high number of cases of COVID-19 and the aging population is the group with the highest risk for morbidity and mortality from the Covid-19 virus. The researchers state that vitamin D deficiency is a major public health problem worldwide in all age groups, but vitamin D status deteriorates with age, above 70 years of life, due to decreased sun exposure and decreased ability of the skin to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight exposure. Vitamin D status is especially poor in institutionalized people (people in nursing homes) 75% of them being severely vitamin D deficient, with blood vitamin D levels below 25 nmol/L. The researchers go on to state that the Southern European countries have lower blood levels of vitamin D, compared to Northern European countries because of decreased sun exposure (prefer the shade in the strong sun) and they tend to have darker skin, compared to Northern Europeans), which reduces the amount of vitamin D made in the skin upon exposure to sunlight. Northern Europe’s average vitamin D blood levels are higher because they know that they don’t get adequate sunlight enough of the year to synthesize required amounts of vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis, so they consume cod liver oil and they take vitamin D supplements (which are very inexpensive) and they fortify their milk and milk products with vitamin D (Finland).
Regarding immunity, vitamin D is required by various immune cells to ward off and fight dangerous viruses and bacteria. As well, low vitamin D blood levels enable certain immune cells to over-react to viruses by creating the cytokine storm, which is often the life-threatening event that causes organ failure and death. Vitamin D also modulates the function of the ACE enzymes in the lungs (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme-2), helping to prevent the virus from mounting a highly virulent and permanent lung-damaging respiratory tract infection in the lungs. I believe that it is just common sense at this point to ensure that your blood vitamin D level is above 75 or 80 nmol/L and below 140 nmol/L. If you have an autoimmune disease or you are fighting certain types of cancer your doctor may want to see higher blood vitamin D levels than 140 nmol/L, but for most people between 80 and 140 nmol/L is the sweet spot to shoot for. Most people can achieve this value by taking 1,000 to 3,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
But you should get your blood vitamin D level assessed by your physician to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D each day to achieve a blood level of at least 80 nmol/L but not so much as to go beyond 140 nmol/L unless otherwise indicated by your physician. Some blood panels show vitamin D in ng/ml rather than nmol/L, in which case the sweet spot is between 32 and 56 ng/ml.
I have included the reference for this information in the text below.
Petre Cristian Ilie, Simina Stefanescu, Lee Smith. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2020.
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,