We might not have had a great summer in the UK this year, but we had enough warm and sunny days that most of us were able to get a fair dose of immune-enhancing vitamin D.
This fat-soluble vitamin boasts quite the list of health benefits, ranging from potentially protecting against colds and flu to helping prevent certain types of cancer. It doesn’t stop there with this amazing vitamin, because vitamin D keeps on unveiling more and more benefits.
Vitamin D and infectious diseases
Produced in response to sunlight, vitamin D is known to have potential immune-enhancing effects. In a recent review of 13 studies, of which 9 were double-blind and placebo-controlled, the results showed that vitamin D therapy shows considerable potential in the treatment of infectious diseases like of tuberculosis (recently on the rise again) and other infections, including flu and viral upper respiratory tract illnesses (hint-hint… those cold winter months will soon be upon us).
This review suggests that ensuring optimal vitamin D levels (through appropriate sunlight exposure, diet and, if necessary, supplementation) will help to ensure optimal protection from infectious diseases.
This has particular relevance in the winter, when levels tend be low. In fact, lower levels of vitamin D may very well be a factor as to why infectious diseases (such as cold, flu and pneumonia) tend to be more common in the winter.
In another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 800 Finnish men had their vitamin D blood-levels measured, after which they were followed for a six-month period.
The researchers who conducted the study then assessed whether there could have been any relationship between blood vitamin D levels and the number of days taken off sick due to respiratory tract infections, like chest infections.
The researchers found that individuals with vitamin D levels less than 40 nmol/l, compared to those with levels greater than 40 nmol/l, took twice as many sick days of work due to respiratory tract infection (4 days of average rather than 2).
As a result, the researchers suggested that one reason individuals are more prone to infection in the winter potentially has something to do with lower levels of vitamin D in their bodies.
With so many health benefits to gain from this naturally produced vitamin and with few sunny days left this summer, it’s likely starting early by taking a good quality vitamin D supplement is the best way to help protect you and your family against those nasty winter infections.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Could low levels of vitamin D help explain why we’re prone to infections in the winter?, by Dr. Briffa, published online 12.10.07, drbriffa.com
Vitamin D helps to combat tuberculosis, flu and other infections by Dr. Briffa, published online 22.06.07, drbriffa.com