Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Making Vitamin D work for you - update

More Vitamin D data.


Vitamin D is increasingly hitting the headlines. The association of its lack with a poor outcome with COVID19 is becoming more clear. The more I look, the more complicated it becomes, yet the simpler the implications.

I came across a paper, from pre-COVID days in 2016, showing that Vitamin D deficiency in  patients undergoing removal of their oesophagus correlates with their subsequent development of Adult Respiratory Distress (ARDS) on ITU. They propose ways in which the vitamin might help reduce inflammation at the level of the alveoli, those tiny air sacs at the far end of the airways which look like bunches of grapes and do the work of gas exchange without which life is not possible.

ARDS is the respiratory problem with COVID too.

In addition to this, a powerful effort to collect data on vitamin D and its link to mortality called a meta-analysis, also carried out in the pre-COVID era, concluded that "the association between 25(OH)D ( VItamin D3) level and all-cause and cause-specific mortality was remarkably consistent".

A more recent retrospective study of COVID patients in Indonesia showed a correlation of Vitamin D levels with outcome, even when corrected for age and other illnesses. Results revealed that the majority of the fatal cases were older men with pre-existing conditions and who also had sub-normal Vitamin D levels. Helpfully, they corrected for age and pre-existing illness. Even then the risk of death from COVID was 10 times greater in those who have very low levels of Vitamin D (deficiency) and seven time more in those whose levels are less low, but not normal (insufficient). 

Deficiency I should add, is defined as a level lower than 30mmol/l and insufficiency less than 50mmol/l. I try to keep mine about 100 and ideally 150mmol/l. 

Reverse causation? Perhaps. People who are ill and old have lower Vitamin D levels, so while this in not absolute proof, of causation, the association is compelling. 

For those who have 17 minutes to spare, this youtube session is a good summary of this current situation with Vitamin D.

The upshot of all this is that it really makes sense to make sure your vitamin D3 levels are about the same as our skimpily clad outdoor-living healthily eating ancestors. 

Is it really as simple as just buying and taking supplements?

Magnesium and Vitamin D


Magnesium is a mineral which plays an essential role in the synthesis and metabolism of vitamin D. Getting adequate amounts in the diet is a problem for modern societies dependent on poor quality agricultural produce and the resultant mineral depleted foods. A recent paper suggests that magnesium is required for Vitamin D to be synthesised; the implication being that taking vitamin D orally, though worthwhile and urgent, might not be the panacea we hope for unless you have enough Magnesium on board. 

They observed that "high intake of total, dietary or supplemental magnesium was independently and significantly associated with reduced risks of both vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency." 


In other words Vitamin D and Magnesium are two vital components in the metabolic jigsaw which keeps us healthy. Supplements will not be needed if you eat good, fresh food. But do you?

Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D


The plot thickens! Vitamin K2 also might have a role in MS as a recent study with MS has revealed. It too has a role in calcium metabolism in association with Vitamin D. Early days with this....

Making sense of all this....


When it comes to the human metabolism, nothing is simple. Before you get Googling to find endless supplement sites trying to sell you their wares, take one step back.

Magnesium is common in good food. Mammals are likely to be able to synthesise K2 from K1 (well, mice at least), and K1 is also readily available in good food.

The ultimate message here is to get outdoors. Yes even with the lockdown it is essential that we get out in the sun as much as we can with the only caveats to not get burnt and to maintain physical distancing. In combination with this, eating a healthy diet too is absolutely critical, now more that ever!

Put another way, the adverse effects of mineral and nutrient depleted foods produced by almost ubiquitous intensive farming practices are being magnified by the COVID pandemic.

As a nation we now spend less, as a proportion of our income on food than ever before. Even so it is a struggle for many less well off households to be be able to afford the quality food they need for health. Cheap food is easy to buy and readily available, affordable to the smaller budgets, but with a big health price tag. That is why magnesium seems be lacking in our diet, zinc too -  more on that later.

With COVID, now is the time to ensure that the multitude of minerals, vitamins and the many other ingredients essential for health are present in your food in the quantities that mean you can avoid the need for daily supplements. Apart that is, from the sunshine Vitamin when you don't get enough sun.

The inter-twining of the COVID and Vitamin D  and magnesium stories are revealing more as time goes by; increasing in scientific complexity yet distilling the critical message of that age old mantra:


We are what we eat. 

So eat well!










3 comments:

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  2. Hi Colin. Thank you for your advices. I'm doing my best with the solar supply of VIT D.
    A further question for your blog.
    Do you have any advice on the efficacious of vegetable/fruit skin/peel. Personally I never peel (or hardly wash) any fruit or veg (with obvious exceptions) in the belief that these foods come naturally as a well rounded balance of nutrition, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, etc. that we have not only evolved to digest happily but also to actually require in order to maintain our health. To me pealing, juicing or any process which discards any part of the natural food, including pips and seeds and even traces of soil is a waste of essential elements. Do you have any comments please.

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    1. I agree,I eat just about all peel other that oranges lemons and the like. There is always the issue of pesticides on the skin of produce to consider though. Stay well x

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Thanks so much for your comment - I will get back to you shortly