While it is well known that Vitamin D – the sunshine nutrient – plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis, numerous studies also show how vitamin D can play a critical role in respiratory health through its effects on lung development and structure, respiratory muscle strength, inflammation and immune response to respiratory pathogens. With this in mind, and against the backdrop of Covid-19, it may come as no surprise to see the escalating research in the media exploring the exact role vitamin D plays in supporting and promoting immune health… and perhaps, more pertinently, in respiratory infections and disease.
The Science – how does vitamin D affect immune health?
Research shows that Vitamin D is necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system, which is our body’s first line of defence against infection and disease. This ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a critical role in promoting immune response and has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties crucial for the activation of immune system defences. Furthermore, Vitamin D is known to enhance the function of immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages, that protect your body against pathogens.
In fact, the vitamin is so important for immune function that low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased susceptibility to infection, disease, and immune-related disorders, including tuberculosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as viral and bacterial respiratory infections. What’s more, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to decreased lung function, which may affect the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections.
Sources of vitamin D ‘The Sunshine Nutrient’
We get vitamin D predominantly by synthesizing D3 in our skin using ultraviolet B (UVB) light, with small quantities obtained from food sources. In countries at high latitudes, the UVB in winter isn’t sufficient to synthesize enough vitamin D, so oral intake becomes more important. Dietary sources include animal products like oily fish, red meat, liver, and egg yolks, and fortified foods like infant formula milk, breakfast cereals and margarines.
The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises a daily intake of 10 µg (micrograms) (400 International Units/day)* for everyone over the age of four years living in the UK, however, it is difficult to achieve this intake with diet alone and Vitamin D supplements are recommended.
1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D – is this a ‘global public health crisis’ ?
• Belgian scientists have now claimed giving out vitamin D supplements could be an ‘inexpensive mitigation strategy.’
• A published study headed by Dr Michael Holick from Boston University’s school of medicine, took blood samples from 235 patients admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 and measured their vitamin D levels.He found patients older than 40 who had sufficient levels of vitamin D were more than 51 per cent less likely to die from the virus.
• A further study revealed an independent association between Vitamin D sufficiency, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL – reduced risk for adverse clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19 infection
• Researchers in Brussels Free University compared vitamin D levels in almost 200 COVID-19 hospital patients with a control group of more than 2,000 healthy people. Men who were hospitalised with the infection were significantly more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than healthy men of the same age.
• Phil Day, a senior pharmacist at the online service Pharmacy2U, said: ‘Vitamin D appears to aid in complications amongst coronavirus patients. ‘[Studies] have shown there is a significant correlation between low vitamin D levels and death from coronavirus’
• Five researchers in Indonesia analysed the hospital records of 780 people confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease. It calculated that vitamin D-deficient patients were 10 times more likely to die when age, gender and co-morbidities were taken into account.
• Mounting evidence about the possible link between Vitamin D deficiency and covid-19 mortality has prompted ‘a rapid evidence review’ – which has been touted as a possible reason for why people from BAME backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the disease.
• Public Health England is also working on the review and has asked the advisory body the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to carry out a separate report.
• A cross-sectional analysis led by Rose Anne Kenny (Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin and lead investigator of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) found that across Europe, COVID-19 mortality was significantly associated with vitamin D status in different populations. Additionally, black and minority ethnic people—who are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency because they have darker skin—seem to be worse affected than white people by COVID-19.
• Kenny remains adamant that the recommendations from all public health bodies should be for the population to take vitamin D supplements during this pandemic. “ The circumstantial evidence is very strong”, she proclaimed, regarding the potential effect on COVID-19 outcomes.
Ellactiva® responds to consumer demand with high performing Immunity supplements
Earlier this year, Ellactiva® for life developed and launched its own evidence-based immunity boosting supplement range and in response to the mounting evidence suggesting a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19 deaths, one of the products – ellactiva BOOST™ SUNSHINE was developed to deliver ULTRA STRENGTH Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C, whilst blended with Inulin + FOS to maximise mineral absorption. Not only a nutritional supplement to boost immunity against the scourge of Covid-19 but to protect against this years annual cold and flu season.