Vitamin D reduces virus and airway infections
- and may save the lives of many weak and older people
Supplementing with high doses of vitamin D may lower the rate of acute airway infections by up to 40 per cent. This simple trick may have the potential to save millions of lives, as many older people, cancer patients and others people with impaired resistance die of pneumonia.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschultz Medical Campus have studied older patients who were given different vitamin D doses for a year. They found that those who got the highest doses of the nutrient were as much as 40 per cent less likely to experience an acute airway infection. According to Professor Adit Ginde who headed the study, vitamin D can prevent infections because it strengthens the “storm troops” of the immune system, which represent our most important defense against contamination.
The immune system comprises of different proteins, white blood cells and antibodies. Ginde points out that in many older people the white blood cells don’t perform properly. By boosting these storm troops with vitamin D, however, it is possible to prevent airway infections such as the common cold, influenza, bronchitis, and pneumonia. In fact, vitamin D supplements may even prevent emphysema and various other airway complications.
80 micrograms of vitamin D or more worked the best
The clinical study is the first to look at vitamin D’s ability to reduce airway infections in nursing home residents. For a one-year period, the researchers monitored 107 patients with an average age of 84 years. 55 of the participants were given high doses of vitamin D (100,000 IU per month), which is the equivalent of consuming 82-107 micrograms of vitamin D daily. 52 of the patients got lower dosages that equaled a consumption of 10-25 micrograms daily.
Those patients who received the highest vitamin D doses had an approximately 50% lower rate of airway infections.
Important measure against virus infections – especially during the winter
Because doctors are generally unable to do much to prevent airway infections caused by virus, and because antibiotics are not of much use, supplementing with vitamin D, according to Professor Ginde, is an important measure that can prevent and reduce serious airway infections. At the same time, this means that many older people plus cancer patients and others with compromised immunity may avoid potentially life-threatening pneumonia.
It is no coincidence that virus infections such as the common cold and the flu typically surface during the winter where people are normally more likely to be vitamin D deficient.
If the immune system is impaired, which is the case with many older people and cancer patients, there is a risk that the infection is accompanied by complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. It is therefore vital to prevent the disease-triggering virus infections and to strengthen the immune system in several different ways.
Earlier research: Vitamin D serves as the battery of the immune defense
Vitamin D is able to both strengthen the storm troops of the immune system and the more specialized troops that consist of B and T cells.
Danish researchers were the first to discover how the entire immune defense, including the T cells, depend on vitamin D. As a figure of speech, Professor Carsten Geisler from the University of Copenhagen compares vitamin D to a car battery, which the car needs in for its engine to be able to start. Similarly, without vitamin D, the immune system is unable to run.
How much vitamin D do we need?
Although we follow the official dietary guidelines, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D to cover our needs. The average daily diet provides very little of the nutrient, and many older people who eat very little get even less. In comparison, the body can produce several hundred percent more vitamin D with as little as little as 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to the summer sun. However, many older people do not synthesize vitamin D all that easily because of their thin and aged skin. That makes them much more prone to a deficiency.
Normal vitamin pills contain relatively small amounts of vitamin D (5-15 micrograms), and many scientists claim that we need substantially higher intake levels to cover our need for the nutrient. In the above mentioned American study, those nursing home residents who experienced the largest reduction of airway infections got around 80-100 micrograms of vitamin D daily.
University of Colorado Anschultz Medical Campus. Vitamin D reduces respiratory infections. ScienceDaily November 2016
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