The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has confirmed that it will be investigating the role of vitamin D in protection against swine flu.
The agency started a study last year on the role of vitamin D in severe seasonal influenza, which it said it will now adapt to the H1N1 swine flu virus.
Part of the researchers’ goal is to understand whether vitamin D levels are in any way responsible for the fact that most people with seasonal influenza develop a mild illness, but a small minority go on to develop severe symptoms.
According to PHAC, results from its study will indicate the extent and nature of the role of vitamin D in severe seasonal influenza.
|Vitamin D Dose Recommendations
||35 units per pound per day
|Age 5 - 10
|WARNING: There is no way to know if the above recommendations are correct. The ONLY way to know is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the amount recommended above. Ideally your blood level of 25 OH D should be 60ng/ml.
Canada appears to be one of the first countries to literally “see the light.”
Over the course of at least three flu seasons, Canada’s public health agency plans to analyze the impact vitamin D levels have on flu severity and, if they find a correlation between severe flu cases and vitamin D levels, will then decide whether vitamin D can be used to lessen serious cases of seasonal flu. While the study started out focused on seasonal flu, the agency is now adapting the study to the swine flu virus.
This is exactly the type of research that stands to make a real difference in public health, with the unfortunate aspect being that it may take years to bear out.
I highly suggest you don’t wait for their results to come in, as there is already overflowing evidence showing that your vitamin D levels play a role in your likelihood of getting the flu.
Vitamin D is a Powerful Flu Fighter
Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, first introduced the hypothesis that influenza is merely a symptom of vitamin D deficiency in the paper Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D, published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection two years ago, followed up with another study published in the Virology Journal last year.
The findings were confirmed by a new study -- the largest and most nationally representative of its kind to date -- that involved about 19,000 Americans. It found that people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu.
In conclusion, lead author Dr. Adit Ginde stated:
"The findings of our study support an important role for vitamin D in prevention of common respiratory infections, such as colds and the flu. Individuals with common lung diseases, such as asthma or emphysema, may be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections from vitamin D deficiency."
There is so much compelling evidence, that I believe optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency is likely the TRUE culprit behind the seasonality of the flu -- not the flu virus itself.
How do You Know if Your Vitamin D Levels are Optimal or Deficient?
In the United States, the late winter average vitamin D level is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a very serious deficiency state. It’s estimated that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public.
Unless you are getting daily sun exposure on a large portion of your body, it’s imperative to have your vitamin D levels checked on a regular basis. This is especially important if you’re taking a vitamin D supplement.
It’s important to realize, however, that what’s conventionally considered normal is NOT the same as optimal. I strongly believe you could avoid colds and influenza entirely by maintaining your vitamin D level in the optimal range, as noted in the chart that follows.
(Holick MF. Calcium and Vitamin D. Diagnostics and Therapeutics. Clin Lab Med. 2000 Sep;20(3):569-90)
The ideal way to increase your levels is by getting safe sun exposure. The next best option would be to use a safe tanning bed. The third route you can take is to use a vitamin D3 supplement, but because it’s possible to overdose from this type of vitamin D, you should be sure to have your levels tested regularly to remain in the therapeutic range.
For adults, the appropriate dose is likely 4,000-5,000 units per day, but it could be even higher. In fact, according to Dr. Heaney, your body requires 4,000 IU’s daily just to maintain its current vitamin D level. So in order to actually raise your levels, you’d have to increase either your exposure to sunshine, or supplement with oral vitamin D3 (which, again, I do not recommend without having your levels tested).
When you go in for your vitamin D blood test, if you’re in the United States be certain your test is performed at a lab like Labcorp, which uses the gold standard Diasorin test for checking vitamin D levels.
Also be sure you order the correct test. 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, is the better marker of overall D status. It is this marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.
You Can Use Vitamin D to Treat the Flu, Too
As I said earlier, if you were to maintain your vitamin D levels within the optimal range shown above, you would likely avoid being affected during the cold and flu season entirely.
That said, if you are coming down with flu-like symptoms and have not been on vitamin D you can take doses of 50,000 units a day for three days to treat the acute infection. Some researchers like Dr. Cannell believe the dose could even be as high as 1,000 units per pound of body weight for three days.
However, most of Dr. Cannell's work was with seasonal and not pandemic flu. If your body has never been exposed to the antigens there is chance that the vitamin D might not work.
Ultimately, your best bet is to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D around 60 ng/ml year-round. To find out even more important information about vitamin D, I strongly recommend you watch my one-hour free vitamin D lecture along with my video on vitamin D’s role in flu prevention.