A new study has confirmed that vitamin D plays an important role in activating your immune defenses against infectious diseases like the flu.
Vitamin D deficiency has already been linked to a wide spectrum of diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, autoimmune disease and many others.
The new study discovers that activation of T-cells to fight infections needs definite help from vitamin D. When a T cell recognizes foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses, it sends activating signals to the vitamin D receptor gene. The VDR gene then starts producing DVR protein, which binds vitamin D in the T cell. Then the vitamin D bound and activated DVR produces PLC-gamma1 protein -- which allows the T cell to get started fighting the infection.
Dr. John Cannell has also reported that vitamin D helps produce antibacterial peptides that help protect against the flu. That is why in winter, when there is little sunshine, people are more prone to vitamin D deficiency and getting infected with flu viruses.
This confirmation is exciting, if for no other reason than the fact that curing vitamin D deficiency is not only inexpensive – it may in some cases cost you nothing!
And, optimizing your vitamin D levels can have a remarkably positive effect on your overall health and helps protect you against a vast number of diseases that are far more serious than the flu.
Vitamin D actually works by increasing your body's production of 2-300 different antimicrobital peptides that are actually far more effective than any synthetic antibiotic or antiviral. They do this at a fraction of the cost and at virtually no toxicity.
How Vitamin D Protects You from the Flu and Other Infections
Backing up Dr. Cannell's previous theory that the flu may simply be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency, this latest study, published this month in the journal Nature Immunology, explains the mechanics of vitamin D's protective nature.
Lead researcher Carsten Geisler told Food Consumer:
"When a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device or 'antenna' known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin D.
This means the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won't even begin to mobilize."
That said, no wonder flu shots don't work!
Flu shots do absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem of vitamin D deficiency, which is effectively hindering your immune system from working properly. In fact, flu vaccines deteriorate your immune system even further, and their side effects can be potentially lethal.
Again, I've frequently written about the importance of maintaining a robust immune system to ward off both minor and major disease, and understanding the role vitamin D plays in allowing your immune system to activate to begin with, could make a radical difference in your health.
Yet another study published this month found that schoolchildren who received supplemental vitamin D had far fewer incidents of both flu and asthma attacks.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial compared two groups of schoolchildren, from December, 2008 through March, 2009.
One group of 167 children received 1,200 IU's of vitamin D3 daily. The other group, consisting of an equal number of children received a placebo. Only 18 of the children in the vitamin D group came down with influenza, compared to 31 of the children in the control group.
They also found that:
"… in children with a previous diagnosis of asthma, asthma attacks as a secondary outcome occurred in 2 children receiving vitamin D(3) compared with 12 children receiving placebo."
These are significant differences. And best of all, optimizing your family's vitamin D levels to reap these kinds of rewards is so easy!
Sources of Vitamin D
Ideally, the best way to get your vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight. The vitamin D generated in your skin from exposure to UV-Bs in sunlight acts as a pro-hormone, rapidly converting into 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or vitamin D3.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the U.S. cannot possibly receive enough UV-B to generate optimal levels of vitamin D from September to mid-April.
Also keep in mind that sunny and hot weather is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the amount of UV-B present. If your latitude is above 30 degrees north or below 30 degrees south, you will likely benefit from vitamin D supplementation from September to mid-April.
In those cases, you can either opt to use a safe tanning bed, or take an oral form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
If you don't know the latitude of your city you can use a latitude finder. If your latitude is lower than 30 degrees, then you have access to good sunshine and may not need vitamin D supplementation.
What You Need to Know about Dosing
It's also important to realize that even though the recommended daily allowances (RDA's) for some age groups have recently been increased, they're still woefully inadequate for most.
For example, at the end of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommended dose of vitamin D for infants, children and adolescents, raising it from 200 to 400 units per day. But recent research reveals children may need ten times that amount in order to receive the health benefits that optimal vitamin D levels have to offer.
Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU's of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly and pregnant women.
However, keep in mind that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, as your vitamin D status is dependent on numerous factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you're exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is simply impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone's needs.
The only way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you'll want to maintain a vitamin D level of 50-65 ng/ml year-round.
I recommend using Lab Corp in the U.S. For more important information about vitamin D testing, please review this previous article.
Vitamin D, a Viable Treatment for Depression, Diabetes, and More?
I also find it encouraging to see that researchers are now starting to delve deeper into vitamin D's impact on depression, and even blood sugar control.
One intriguing connection between depression and vitamin D levels is the link between depression and inflammation.
As you just read above, sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation, and other research has discovered that depressed people tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains. Ditto for those with Alzheimer's disease.
Other diseases caused by low-level, chronic inflammation include cancer, arthritis, and chronic fatigue, just to name a few. And yes, vitamin D has been found to play a major role in all of those ailments too, and more.
Just take a look at this list of common chronic diseases that researchers have linked to vitamin D deficiency:
And as if that wasn't enough, a 2008 meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials concluded that supplemental vitamin D significantly reduces mortality from ALL causes!
Clearly, a large number of health problems and potentially lethal diseases are directly or indirectly caused by chronic inflammation in your body, which makes the recommendation to optimize your vitamin D levels a no-brainer.
Important Personal Update
I have done a personal experiment over the past few years and have not taken any oral vitamin D when I leave Chicago's dark and cold winters for sunny and warmer weather. Before I leave, my levels run about 60-65 ng/ml.
But after sufficient and safe exposure to daily sunshine for three months, for a number of years, when I return home, my levels have always been about 75 ng/ml. When this first happened I was concerned and believed that they were too high. But after four years in a row of these levels I am coming to believe that this may actually be a healthier normal.
Based on my personal experience, I believe it is likely the optimal range could be about 75 ng/ml. Part of this is also based on studies of lifeguards who are in the sun most of the day during the summer. Their levels rise to 100 ng/ml.
I typically get 1-3 hours of sun on my body while I am shirtless and wearing shorts. So it is important to understand that you are not going to achieve these high levels unless you can expose large portions of your body to the sun.
You simply will not achieve these levels by exposing your face and lower arms to the sun. There just isn't enough surface area to collect enough UVB.
But please be careful to protect your face. You should avoid using your face as a UVB collector as that skin is too thin and fragile, and most susceptible to photo aging.
I personally wear a cap to put my face in shade but you can also use a safe sun screen, especially around your eyes.
Improve Your Health and be Part of Worldwide Public Health Campaign
Carole Baggerly, founder of GrassrootsHealth and a major vitamin D proponent, is currently studying the long-term health effects of vitamin D. She was also instrumental in getting Canadian health authorities to investigate the use of vitamin D against the swine flu last year.
D*Action is a worldwide public health campaign, aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic in one year through focus on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth.
You can still participate in the D*action study, if you like! Best of all, Mercola subscribers will receive a 15 percent discount on the 5-year sponsorship.
To sign up, and get your discount, follow these instructions:
When you sign up, at the beginning of the Payment Options (The area where it says "Please input any CLINIC ID or COUPON CODE assigned to your organization and click Apply:") on the Order form, please enter 'Mercola.' Then continue with your payment process.
When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a 5 year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient.
There is a $60 fee for every 6 months for your sponsorship of the project (Mercola sponsors get a 15 percent discount), which includes a complete new test kit to be used at home (except in the state of New York), and electronic reports on your ongoing progress.
When you finish the questionnaire, you can choose your subscription option. You will get a follow up email every 6 months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."
To join now, please follow this link to the sign up form.
I, along with GrassrootsHealth, expect this study will demonstrate the real significance of this nutrient on your health and, of course, its value in the prevention of many diseases. So please sign up today so you can be part of a team of Mercola subscribers setting out to demonstrate that PREVENTION WORKS!
Disease Prevention and Optimal Health Begins in the Womb!
GrassrootsHealth is particularly interested in signing up people in these three categories, in order to extrapolate specific data from these groups:
- Pregnant women
- Lactating women
As you likely know, good health begins in the womb, and optimizing your vitamin D levels during this time is one crucial strategy that can significantly improve the long-term health of your baby!
So if you or someone you know is either pregnant or breast feeding, please consider joining this groundbreaking study to show the health benefits of this remarkable nutrient.
I hope you'll jump on the chance to participate in this wonderful project, and please, help spread the word!