View Full Version : Influenza--caused by Vitamin D deficiency?

Garrett Smith
12-09-2008, 04:53 AM
Epidemiology and Infection, known as The Journal of Hygiene in Hope-Simpson's day, recently published our paper. The editor, Professor Norman Noah, knew Dr. Hope-Simpson and helped tremendously with the paper. In the paper, we detailed our theory that vitamin D is Hope-Simpson's long forgotten "seasonal stimulus." We proposed that annual fluctuations in vitamin D levels explain the seasonality of influenza. The periodic seasonal fluctuations in 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels, which cause recurrent and predictable wintertime vitamin D deficiency, predispose human populations to influenza epidemics. We raised the possibility that influenza is a symptom of vitamin D deficiency in the same way that an unusual form of pneumonia (pneumocystis carinii) is a symptom of AIDS. That is, we theorized that George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, "the characteristic microbe of a disease might be a symptom instead of a cause."

In the paper, we propose that vitamin D explains the following 14 observations:

1. Why the flu predictably occurs in the months following the winter solstice, when vitamin D levels are at their lowest,

2. Why it disappears in the months following the summer solstice,

3. Why influenza is more common in the tropics during the rainy season,

4. Why the cold and rainy weather associated with El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which drives people indoors and lowers vitamin D blood levels, is associated with influenza,

5. Why the incidence of influenza is inversely correlated with outdoor temperatures,

6. Why children exposed to sunlight are less likely to get colds,

7. Why cod liver oil (which contains vitamin D) reduces the incidence of viral respiratory infections,

8. Why Russian scientists found that vitamin D-producing UVB lamps reduced colds and flu in schoolchildren and factory workers,

9. Why Russian scientists found that volunteers, deliberately infected with a weakened flu virus - first in the summer and then again in the winter - show significantly different clinical courses in the different seasons,

10. Why the elderly who live in countries with high vitamin D consumption, like Norway, are less likely to die in the winter,

11. Why children with vitamin D deficiency and rickets suffer from frequent respiratory infections,

12. Why an observant physician (Rehman), who gave high doses of vitamin D to children who were constantly sick from colds and the flu, found the treated children were suddenly free from infection,

13. Why the elderly are so much more likely to die from heart attacks in the winter rather than in the summer,

14. Why African Americans, with their low vitamin D blood levels, are more likely to die from influenza and pneumonia than Whites are.

Although our paper discusses the possibility that physiological doses of vitamin D (5,000 units a day) may prevent colds and the flu, and that physicians might find pharmacological doses of vitamin D (2,000 units per kilogram of body weight per day for three days) useful in treating some of the one million people who die in the world every year from influenza, we remind readers that it is only a theory. Like all theories, our theory must withstand attempts to be disproved with dispassionately conducted and well-controlled scientific experiments.
Feel free to share!

Camille Lore
12-09-2008, 05:37 AM
I find that very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

Garrett Smith
12-09-2008, 07:48 AM
Yes, that part in there about the 2000 units D / kg BW x 3 days is NOT a typo.

For me:
~80kg BW x 2000 units D = 160,000 units D x 3 days

My wife and I recently got something flu-ish and tried buying some Vit. D at a health food store on the way home from work - they only had 400iu tabs, 100 to a bottle. That meant the whole bottle only had 40,000 units! We were currently taking 2000iu/day from CLO. This will likely increase.

Anyway, my wife got over her stuff in ~1.5 days and me in 2. We basically split the bottle between us over two days plus some extra CLO. Many other people around here are catching this flu-ish syndrome BAD. I'm still clearing the garbage out of my respiratory system.

The potential amount of money that an increased daily dose and/or acute flu dosing of vitamin D that people could save on antiviral/antibacterial/"immune-boosting" supplements and foods to avoid/fight getting sick in the winter is staggering.

Get sun exposure, take CLO, and maybe even add some supplemental Vit. D are the lessons I'll be taking from this.

Scott Kustes
12-09-2008, 11:29 AM
G-man, do you carry any vitamin D products or advise any specific ones? Not in need now, but you never know and it's good to be advised in advance.

Mike ODonnell
12-09-2008, 11:30 AM
I thought I posted on this already...but don't see it. Thanks for the link Dr G, used it with my flu shot rant today on the blog (love the "make your own flu shot" video....Canadians, too funny)

G-man, do you carry any vitamin D products or advise any specific ones? Not in need now, but you never know and it's good to be advised in advance.

Cod Liver Oil and Sardines/Eggs....eat up!

Garrett Smith
12-09-2008, 11:39 AM
I was planning on looking into that for myself, I believe I can find drops of D3 that contain either 1000iu or 2000iu per drop, that would be so much easier than the tabs.

Daniel Labuz
12-09-2008, 01:42 PM
I felt terrible all weekend and Monday (runny nose, fatigued) my CLO was delivered Monday afternoon, took two swigs of it last night and this morning and feel amazing.

I knew I was Vit D deficient for a while since there's no sun anymore in upstate New York, and my egg consumption went down the tube when my stove broke, so this CLO is a godsend.

Craig Loizides
12-11-2008, 07:25 AM
Carlson makes a 2000 IU vitamin D3 supplement available in either drops of softgel. I started using it a few weeks ago along with some CLO.

George Mounce
12-11-2008, 07:37 AM
I thought influenza was caused by a virus? :p

Could it be the immune system is stronger with more Vitamin D, therefore you are more apt to be able to fight it off? Not trying to mince words, but causality shouldn't be mixed here. Influenza is a virus, no vitamin or lack of it causes a virus to occur.

I would agree that people have less of a chance to fight off infection and disease without a healthy immune system. Saying that Vitamin D deficiencies cause influenza is not a correct statement.

Why African Americans, with their low vitamin D blood levels, are more likely to die from influenza and pneumonia than Whites are.

That is quite a generalization don't you think?

Garrett Smith
12-11-2008, 08:15 AM
I believe your questions are answered directly in the full article.
Then I thought of three mysteries that I first learned in medical school at the University of North Carolina: (1) although the influenza virus exists in the population year-round, influenza is a wintertime illnesses; (2) children with vitamin D deficient rickets are much more likely to suffer from respiratory infections; (3) the elderly in most countries are much more likely to die in the winter than the summer (excess wintertime mortality), and most of that excess mortality, although listed as cardiac, is, in fact, due to influenza.

Could vitamin D explain these three mysteries, mysteries that account for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year? Studies have found the influenza virus is present in the population year-around; why is it a wintertime illness? Even the common cold got its name because it is common in cold weather and rare in the summer. Vitamin D blood levels are at their highest in the summer but reach their lowest levels during the flu and cold season. Could such a simple explanation explain these mysteries?

Humans evolved naked in sub-equatorial Africa, where the sun shines directly overhead much of the year and where our species must have obtained tens of thousands of units of vitamin D every day, in spite of our skin developing heavy melanin concentrations (racial pigmentation) for protecting the deeper layers of the skin. Even after humans migrated to temperate latitudes, where our skin rapidly lightened to allow for more rapid vitamin D production, humans worked outdoors. However, in the last three hundred years, we began to work indoors; in the last one hundred years, we began to travel inside cars; in the last several decades, we began to lather on sunblock and consciously avoid sunlight. All of these things lower vitamin D blood levels. The inescapable conclusion is that vitamin D levels in modern humans are not just low - they are aberrantly low.

About three years ago, after studying all I could about vitamin D, I began testing my patient's vitamin D blood levels and giving them literature on vitamin D deficiency. All their blood levels were low, which is not surprising as vitamin D deficiency is practically universal among dark-skinned people who live at temperate latitudes. Furthermore, my patients come directly from prison or jail, where they get little opportunity for sun exposure. After finding out that all my patients had low levels, many profoundly low, I started educating them and offering to prescribe them 2,000 units of vitamin D a day, the U.S. government's "Upper Limit."

The darker the skin, the more sun exposure is required to produce the same amount of Vitamin D. It is a generalization based in physiology, assuming similar amounts of sun exposure.

George Mounce
12-11-2008, 03:51 PM
I'm word mincing with how you titled this thread Garrett. :p

This statement assumes all black people have a Vitamin D deficiency. I would argue this isn't the case. With the amount of Vitamin D that is pumped into even cheap milk, and milk is a very common beverage in all public schools I've visited, I fail to see how the African American population as a whole is suffering from a huge Vit D deficiency.

This would also assume all people who never get out in the sun every also suffer from this deficiency.

Did you read this sentence? Horrid place to do a study:

Furthermore, my patients come directly from prison or jail, where they get little opportunity for sun exposure.

It doesn't take someone smart to figure out that is a biased study right there.

Don't get me wrong, people with poor diets will have poor immune systems. But this article suffers in some places.

Garrett Smith
12-12-2008, 06:04 AM
It was only a summary article. I tried using the link to get the whole article, but the PDF version was nowhere to be found.

One might argue that prison or jail is a good place to do studies, in that it is potentially much more "controlled" than many other studies in many ways, not that I'm advising it.

Then again, there may also be more corroborating evidence, if that's what you are looking for:
Vitamin D and African Americans (http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/136/4/1126)

Vitamin D acquisition. Parent vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure and diet and is converted in the liver to 25(OH)D, the primary storage form of the vitamin and the best clinical indicator of vitamin D status. Optimal blood levels of 25(OH)D with respect to skeletal health are a matter of current debate, but are likely to be in the range of at least 75–80 nmol/L (1,2). However, regardless of how vitamin D insufficiency is defined, it is far more prevalent among blacks than whites (3–5). For example, data from NHANES III show that, in the southern states, 53%–76% of non-Hispanic blacks (depending on sex and age) compared with 8%–33% of non-Hispanic whites had 25(OH)D concentrations below 50 nmol/L in the winter (4). The lower 25(OH)D of blacks and other groups with dark skin results primarily from the fact that pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin. Individuals with dark skin can produce high 25(OH)D levels given sufficient UV exposure (6) but, under normal conditions at most latitudes in North America, even young, healthy blacks do not achieve optimal 25(OH)D concentrations at any time of year. This is illustrated by a study in young black and white Boston women measured four times over the period of 1 y (Fig. 1). The black women had much lower 25(OH)D levels all year long and smaller increases in 25(OH)D between winter and summer (5).

There's quite a bit more on PubMed about the relationship of skin color to general vitamin D status.

Steven Low
12-22-2008, 05:26 PM
Another interesting post on Vit D on conditioningresearch:


Bo Bolund
12-25-2008, 05:03 AM
I take Superior Source Vitamin D3 10.000 IU every day.

It amazes me how long it has taken science to rediscover vitamin d.
Probably due to the liberal vitamin d supplementation in food in the early 19th century causing severe intoxications. It's a tricky vitamin to optimally supplement in food since maximal dose is not far from toxic dose.

Garrett Smith
12-25-2008, 05:17 AM
Are you testing your levels to find out if you need quite that much?

Bo Bolund
12-25-2008, 05:34 AM
Are you testing your levels to find out if you need quite that much?

I'm not testing my levels since it has been shown it takes at least 40 000 units long-term supplementation to cause intoxication and 10.000 units is made endogenously after 20 minutes of complete body summer sun exposure. I'm taking maximal dose during september-may because I find it helpful in clearing brain fog. I rarely get any sun during this season and I live on the 59th parallell so even if I did get sun exposure it would not be sufficient.

Garrett Smith
12-25-2008, 07:07 AM
Cool, as long as you're comfortable with it.

I want to get my levels tested. I think I need more than the average Joe.