When you talk about Vitamin D, there are a number of things you can say about it.

Protects your bones from osteoarthritis and osteoporosis?   Duh?
Helps fight against 17 different forms of cancer?  Yup!
Wards against auto-immune disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and hypertension?  Sure!
Keeps you from getting Piggy Flu?  Yes.. wait.. what?

The experts over at the Vitamin D Council — those guys that actually know what the heck they are talking about when it comes to this stuff — have gotten two emails concerning the efficacy of Vitamin D protecting against H1N1:

Dr. Cannell: Your recent newsletters and video about Swine flu (H1N1) prompted me to convey our recent experience with an H1N1 outbreak at Central Wisconsin Center (CWC). Unfortunately, the state epidemiologist was not interested in studying it further so I pass it on to you since I think it is noteworthy.

CWC is a long-term care facility for people with developmental disabilities, home for approx. 275 people with approx. 800 staff. Serum 25-OHD has been monitored in virtually all residents for several years and patients supplemented with vitamin D.

In June, 2009, at the time of the well-publicized Wisconsin spike in H1N1 cases, two residents developed influenza-like illness (ILI) and had positive tests for H1N1: one was a long-term resident; the other, a child, was transferred to us with what was later proven to be H1N1.

On the other hand, 60 staff members developed ILI or were documented to have H1N1: of 17 tested for ILI, eight were positive. An additional 43 staff members called in sick with ILI. (Approx. 11–12 staff developed ILI after working on the unit where the child was given care, several of whom had positive H1N1 tests.)

So, it is rather remarkable that only two residents of 275 developed ILI, one of which did not develop it here, while 103 of 800 staff members had ILI. It appears that the spread of H1N1 was not from staff-to-resident but from resident-to-staff (most obvious in the imported case) and between staff, implying that staff were susceptible and our residents protected. Sincerely, Norris Glick, MD Central Wisconsin Center Madison, WI

This is the first hard data that I am aware of concerning H1N1 and vitamin D. It appears vitamin D is incredibly protective against H1N1. Dr. Carlos Camargo at Mass General ran the numbers in an email to me. Even if one excludes 43 staff members who called in sick with influenza, 0.73% of residents were affected, as compared to 7.5% of staff. This 10-fold difference was statistically significant (P<0.001). That is, the chance that this was a chance occurrence is one less than one in a thousand.

Dr. Cannell: Thanks for your update about the hospital in Wisconsin. I have had similar anecdotal evidence from my medical practice here in Georgia. We are one of the 5 states with widespread H1N1 outbreaks.

I share an office with another family physician. I aggressively measure and replete vitamin D. He does not. He is seeing one to 10 cases per week of influenza-like illness.

In my practice— I have had zero cases. My patients are universally on 2000–5000 IU to maintain serum levels 50–80 ng/ml. Ellie Campbell, DO Campbell Family Medicine 3925 Johns Creek Court Ste A Suwannee GA 30024

Critics say we should not recommend vitamin D to prevent influenza until it is proven to do so (It has not been).

The critics are thus saying, although they seem not to know it, you should be vitamin D deficient this winter until science proves being vitamin D sufficient is better than being Vitamin D deficient. Such advice is clearly unethical and has never ever been the standard of care.

This is not rocket science. If I am wrong, and Vitamin D does not prevent influenza, what is lost? A few dollars. If they are wrong, and it does prevent influenza, what is lost? So far, the CDC says 41 kids are dead from H1N1, and the flu season has not yet started.

I read this, called in DH from his gaming adventures, and gave him 5k of dry D3.  I agree with Dr. Cannell — if it’s just a coincidence, then he’s taking a pill that might make him a bit happier, lower his chances of stroke, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes (and given the amount of Mt. Dew he drinks, he needs all the help he can get in that department).  But hey, given how miraculous Vitamin D seems to be?  Yeah, he’s taking the damned little capsule anyway.

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