COVID-19: Presenting the case for Vitamin D

A cheap, effective measure overlooked by most governments

Here we are again: another winter of COVID, with increasing restrictions and the threat of cancellation of Christmas. This is all down to the fear of the Omicron variant, despite Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, reassuring us that Omicron’s symptoms are “extremely mild” [1]. 

We will probably never be without COVID-19; indeed we are still living with respiratory viruses from the three pandemics of this century (SARS, MERS and swine flu) [2]. The fact that these and other viruses have not wiped out the human race is down to the human immune system, which is nothing short of miraculous in its abilities. As a species, humans have overcome every single microbial infection since we evolved into homo sapiens; if we had not, the human race would be extinct by now. Yes, there have been some deaths along the way, but the human immune system, when properly supported, can overcome any challenge.

Sadly, the human immune system is a resource which has not yet been utilised by the government or public health authorities. Their messaging on supporting the immune system is non-existent. This is needlessly jeopardising lives and health, particularly among those most at risk of severe COVID. Yet, the single greatest difference that we could all make to our immune health is to raise our vitamin D levels, something that could be accomplished very simply and cheaply.  Many studies have shown that high Vitamin D levels are associated with a reduced risk of catching covid, a reduced risk of severe disease and of death. Yet NICE guidance still only recommends the 400 units daily dose historically prescribed for prevention of rickets, rather than the much higher doses required for a healthy immune system.  A half-hearted government program which offered free supplements (actually at too low a dose) to those at high risk last winter seems to have closed.

Vitamin D can improve immune functioning and suppress the inflammatory cytokine response, particularly important for COVID-19, while low vitamin D levels predispose us to increased risk of respiratory tract infections and pneumonia [3-11]. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses (both looking at the totality of the evidence) show that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection [8,12].  

The full article linked here takes an in-depth look at current evidence that vitamin D can support the immune system.  With the number of studies outlined in this review clearly demonstrating the importance of adequate vitamin D levels, it is astonishing that the government has not seized on vitamin D as the answer to their COVID prayers.  Imagine if Vitamin D had the full weight of the pharmaceutical industry behind it! 

Vitamin D is very cheap. The cost of supplying it would be significantly lower than the cost of hospitalisation of further COVID-19 cases, particularly in intensive care. And it is impossible to put a price on the value of lives saved. The University of Birmingham estimated that offering free vitamin D supplements of 800 IU/day to the elderly and the BAME community, plus fortifying flour with vitamin D, would save the economy £65 million by reducing demand for healthcare [102]. A further study estimated that treating the UK elderly with 800 IU/day would prevent falls, long term care and death by a net saving of £420 million [103]. Similarly in Germany, reports showed that vitamin D supplementation in the elderly was estimated to prevent almost 30,000 cancer deaths per year at net savings of €254 million (around £217 million) [104]. 

Much of the UK population is still living in a state of fear and helplessness. Vit D supplementation would foster a greater sense of safety and personal control among many, reducing mental health issues and giving people the confidence to venture out to resume normal life with the sense of optimism and positivity which is so badly needed to rebuild our lives and our economy. We understand that as Omicron sweeps the globe, our leaders have to be seen to be doing something, but rather than further curtailing liberties, why not just promote Vitamin D?  Matt Hancock said he was going to provide Vitamin D to all care homes a year ago but it has yet to happen. Perhaps a simple TV campaign would help. There certainly seems to be an endless budget to promote vaccines – why not this simple preventative too? 

Read full Briefing Article here


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