15 April 2020

When Your Health Turns On You: #Hypothyroidism –– 7: Covid-19 and Vitamin D

Image courtesy of Gert Altmann via Pixabay
Yesterday morning I caught an interesting interview on Sky News. Dr Gero Baiarda from GPDQ, a private GP service in the UK, was discussing the high proportion of Covid-19 infections and deaths among people of the Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds.

The numbers had become noticeable, he said, among those working in the National Heath Service, front-line or not, which was why he’d focused on it. The immediate assumption had been a socio-economic cause – such as crowded housing and multi-generational occupancy – but this didn’t explain why so many doctors were succumbing. What these people shared was the high amount of melanin in their skin, the body’s in-built safeguard for living in much sunnier climes than the UK. The more melanin the less Vitamin D is able to be produced in the skin by sunlight. It is understood, he said, that Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in the immune system, and that those of darker-skinned ethnic minorities were known to have low Vitamin D levels.

By this point I was shouting at the television. Low levels of Vitamin D in the UK population is hardly news – and it pertains to every ethnic background, including European Caucasians. It is particularly prevalent in the elderly. I believe it to be the smoking gun behind my Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, and I suspect a lot of other auto-immune disorders. But try getting a Vitamin D test on the NHS: it’s a postcode lottery dependant on whether the area’s Clinical Commissioning Group thinks such a test is important. Many don’t. For years the overriding belief of the medical profession has been that man-made medicines are the answer to every ill. Now the world has a novel Coronavirus – Covid-19 – a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome far more transmittable, and deadly, than the outbreaks of SARS-1 in 2002-2004, and there are no man-made medicines capable of touching it, which is why the UK population, along with many others, is in semi-lockdown.

As I mentioned in my Hypothyroidism-6 post, I am currently following Dr John Campbell’s YouTube videos. He highlighted the importance of Vitamin D to the immune system weeks ago, and even in a recent video was questioning why no one seemed to be picking up on it. He is quite open about his self-supplementing with a supermarket own-brand as a norm during the winter months. I am taking a much higher amount, with co-factors, due to my Hypothyroidism, but I've put other members of my family on 25mcg per day.

It is part of NICE’s recommendation that “...10 micrograms of vitamin D per day, throughout the year, for everyone in the general population aged 4 years and older...” 

Within the same recommendation, under ‘Specific Population Groups’ it is stated: 
Although the entire population of the UK are at risk of having a low vitamin D status, evidence was only considered in regard to increasing the supplement use for these specific population groups:
    • All pregnant and breastfeeding women, particularly teenagers and young women.
    • Infants and children under 4 years (breast fed, non-breast fed and mixed fed).
    • People over 65.
   • People who have low or no exposure to the sun. For example, those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods.
   • People who have darker skin, for example, people of African, African–Caribbean and South Asian origin...."
[Emboldened emphasis is mine.]

So why is this such a surprise? In his short Sky News interview, Dr Gero Baiarda mentioned that articles in the British Medical Journal (2017) and on Pubmed.gov add credence to his observations that Vitamin D reduces the risk of respiratory inflammation turning into pneumonia. (VitaminDwiki also has an impressive list.)

Looking at the Pubmed page, there’s an article written by a number of doctors in Italy (April 2020) stating that they were giving non-critical Covid-19 patients intravenous “multivitamin & multimineral trace element solutions” plus Vitamin D on admission in an attempt to avert them from becoming critical. They freely admit that this “straight approach may be debatable” but they were dealing with an emergency situation – which, considering the number of infections and deaths recorded in Italy (currently 162,000/21,000), I find something of an understatement.

In the UK a Vitamin D level of 50 nmol/L is regarded as “within range”, when it is known that a level of 75 nmol/L and above is needed for it to be active within the cells. Insufficiency is regarded as 25-50 nmol/L and deficiency less than 25 nmol/L. If many of the ethnic-background population are low in Vitamin D, as Dr Gero Baiarda maintains, due to their higher melanin level, no wonder there is a disproportionate number succumbing to Covid-19. It may also be an indicator as to why the elderly are being hit so hard, and so few among the very young.

I would like to think that when this pandemic is over the medical profession will rethink its emphasis, or lack of it, concerning vitamins and minerals across the entire population. Alas, I’m not holding my breath.

UPDATE 16 April 2020:
It seems I'm not the only one to pick up on this (thank goodness). There was a question asked at the government's No 10 Daily Briefing today, and catching up on my reading I find that Dr John Campbell has uploaded another YouTube video on it: Vitamin D and Immunity: Lots of Evidence.

UPDATE 09 May 2020:
Back to Dr John Campbell talking about dosages, complete with links to papers. Never mind Covid-19, anyone who doesn't have an optimal level of Vitamin D has a 50% higher risk of getting colorectal cancer and an increased risk of heart disease. Vitamin D Dose.

UPDATE 21 May 2020:
And yet again Dr John Campbell nails it, this time in conversation with Dr Shelton of New Zealand. They discuss how Covid-19 gets into cells and how having inflammation in the blood vessels (high blood pressure and others) is a metabolic syndrome in which a low Vitamin D level is always present. And who knew washing after sunbathing may not be a good idea? Dr Sheldon, Part 2, Vitamin D.

UPDATE 10 June 2020 (there are a lot of these, aren't there? I wonder why!)
Again, it is Dr John Campbell who is bringing this information into the open in layman's terms - this time from the French National Academy of Medicine: the correlation between lack of Vitamin D and high Covid-19 morbidity has a confidence rating of 95.4%. So why have northern latitude Scandinavian countries not been badly hit?  They have mandatory fortification with Vitamin D in up to 40 foods as well general population supplementation. Vitamin D Update.

When Your Health Turns On You #Hypothyroidism series:
1: Symptoms
2: Vitamins & Minerals
3: Blood Tests
4: Vitamin Co-Factors & the Microbiome
5: Functional Medicine & YouTube
6: Covid-19 Coronavirus
8: Vitamin D - The Results!