The Big D

Vitamin D

In earlier posts I have mentioned that Vitamin D seemed to have some positive effects for COVID. But, to be honest, I had no serious idea as to how significant that benefit might be.

Well, now there is a large study which has put some numbers to the hunch:

“In a study of more than 190,000 people who had been screened for COVID-19, nearly 13% of those with lower-than-recommended levels of the nutrient tested positive for the coronavirus, the data showed.

Conversely, just over 8% of those with “adequate” vitamin D levels and 6% of those with high levels had COVID-19, according to the researchers.

Overall, the researchers found people with “deficient” levels of vitamin D were at 54% higher risk of having the coronavirus.

“Simply going to your local pharmacy, purchasing a vitamin D supplement and taking it as directed can significantly reduce your risk for getting this deadly disease,” study co-author Dr. Michael F. Holick told UPI.

“That’s as good, if not better, than what any potential vaccine will do in terms of protection,” said Holick, a professor of physiology, biophysics and molecular medicine at Boston University.” UPI

I have been taking 1000 units a day since early spring and, with the weather changing and spending more time indoors, I will bump that to 3000 a day.

However, the larger implications of this study need to be thought about. Vitamin D is about as benign a substance as we can imagine. It is very cheap and very available and you can start taking it today.

Now, it is not a cure nor a 100% effective prophylactic, however, a push to lower the number of people suffering from Vitamin D deficiency might be significantly more effective than masks and a great deal cheaper than lockdowns.

Remember, there has never been a vaccine for AIDS however there emerged drug protocols which have changed an AIDS diagnosis from a death sentence to a manageable, chronic illness. My own view is that COVID will be defeated with better testing, better treatment and a drive towards improving people’s immune systems. It looks like ensuring everyone has sufficient levels of Vitamin D as we go into Fall is a very easy step to take.

It is so cheap and so benign that it really could be given away. But, and here is where things get a bit nasty, it is not obvious that public health officials and politicians responsible for the COVID file are willing to suggest pro-active responses to the virus. Social distancing, masks, lockdowns are all, practically, parts of a shelter in place mindset.

If, after looking at the study cited above and the many other studies which suggest Vitamin D improves both resistance to infection and response to infection, public health officials and politicians endorsed it, we might make more rapid progress against COVID.

The fact that the hospitalization rates, rates of admission to ICUs and deaths are all down, suggests that even if you are unlucky enough to get COVID you have a very good chance of being asymptomatic or of suffering only mild illness. Adding Vitamin D to the mix would, I suspect, push those numbers even further down. (Cases will likely remain high or even go a bit higher but that will mainly reflect increased testing and a good deal of debate as to how sensitive the tests should be.)

Psychologically, I suspect a lot of people would benefit from a sense that they are doing something to protect themselves and their loved ones and their communities. The rise of “the mask”, despite considerable expert doubt as to masks’ efficacy suggest people want to “do something” about the virus. Taking a couple of thousand units of Vitamin D a day might well be that something.

[Note: A recent article in the Telegraph written by a group of eminent scientists suggests that by boosting your immune system you may be boosting a pre-existing partial immunity to COVID. Well worth a read.]

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6 thoughts on “The Big D

  1. John says:

    Interesting paper Jay. It clearly shows the importance of vitamin D for fighting covid, however I would encourage everyone to exercise a little caution (or at least read the paper). If you look at Figure 1, it basically shows that the level where the effect of Vitamin D is maximized is around 50 ng/ml. Studies show that 2/3 of Canadians are at this level already so there is no benefit to be found for increasing their intake of Vitamin D. As for the other 1/3, they should be increasing their Vitamin D as long as they do it sensibly. For anyone not certain of the amount they should take, the recommended daily allowance of 400 IU would be sufficient unless you have a medical condition that restricts intake.

    I would also caution taking more than 1000 IU a day for a long period of time. Since it is fat soluble, there is no easy mechanism to expel excess vitamin D so it will accumulate and, over time, could cause health problems.

    However I disagree with your assessment about masks. The science behind their benefit is well established and I think they are a key element in preventing the spread of covid along with hand sanitation, social distancing and even a little vitamin D.

  2. Jay Currie says:

    I take your points on Vitamin D and the exercise of caution. However, as we go into Fall and Winter and the days get shorter here in the great white north, supplementation makes sense.

    On masks, the trouble is that the science is not all that well established: “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.” https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372

    Now, if by chance you asymptomatically have COVID wearing a mask would make sense. However, in my neck of the woods on South Vancouver Island there are less than a dozen cases so it is a pretty good bet people do not have the virus.

    Hand sanitation and social distance have pretty much become second nature in our community. Masking is entirely optional and ranges from 0% at the dog park to perhaps 35% at the upmarket grocery store. I would be very surprised if masks became mandatory in BC.

  3. John says:

    Jay, I think your system is blocking me again.

  4. John says:

    Jay, your spam filter has it in for me.

  5. John says:

    Jay, your spam filter appears to have caught my reply.

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