Health-Related Severity May Be Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency
Studies find that communities of color experience more health issues than other populations. But why? One reason may be chronic vitamin D deficiencies.1,2
Darker skin requires more sunlight to convert UVB rays from the sun into pre-vitamin D on the skin. This pre-vitamin D is absorbed into the blood, liver, and kidneys to become active vitamin D3. Active vitamin D3 (calcitriol) plays a critical role in a healthy immune response.
In one study, hospitalized patients were evaluated for vitamin D deficiencies. Out of 20 patients admitted to the ICU 85% of them were vitamin D3 deficient. Strikingly, 100% of the ICU patients less than 75 years old had vitamin D deficiencies.1 The study concluded that testing for vitamin D deficiency should be standard practice for those admitted to the hospital for any immune event.1
Vitamin D is a powerful regulator of immunity and pathogen elimination.3 In addition, vitamin D3 regulates healthy T-cell, lymphocyte, and cytokine immune responses.4, 5
Vitamin D Sufficiency Can Shorten Hospital Stay
Dr. Ray Matthews, assistant professor of surgery at the Moorehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, has published a landmark study on the benefits of vitamin D.4
His report shows patients with optimum vitamin D levels had shorter length of stays in the hospital, decreased hospital costs, decreased readmission rates, and longer lives. Dr. Matthews reports that the mortality rate drops 42% with critically ill patients by administering vitamin D and cuts the 30-day readmission rate by at least 50%.4,6
He argues that the government’s current recommendation for normal levels of vitamin D at 30 ng/mL is too low, requiring all his hospital patients to be around 50 ng/mL.
The report goes on to say that all animals in the wild have vitamin D levels around 50 ng/mL. If the animals go into to captivity, however, their vitamin D levels plummet.
According to his research, within the first 24-48 hours of being in the hospital, vitamin D levels drop by 50%. That means if you go into the hospital with a level of 30 ng/mL, your numbers can drop to a very dangerously low level of 15 ng/mL within the first two days. There was no explanation given for this observation.
Vitamin D has many functions, none of which is greater than its support for immunity. Immune support is critical when entering a hospital or facing any challenge to the immune system.
More Vitamin D Benefits at a Glance
- The New England Journal of Medicine finds that risk of death for intensive care patients is 45% in those with vitamin D deficiencies, while only 16% for folks with sufficient vitamin D levels.7
- As we age, risk of stroke rises. There are roughly 7 million stroke victims a year in America or about 3% of the population.20 In one study, optimal vitamin D levels were associated with a 90% return to functionality after a stroke.8
- Deficient Vitamin D levels have been linked to accelerated death of beta (insulin-producing) cells in cases of diabetes.9
- In one study, low levels of vitamin D are associated with mood-related issues.10 Vitamin D receptors develop in the brain embryonically, suggesting that vitamin D is linked to neurological function.
- In a long-term study conducted over 11 years with 1,650 mother-child pairs, for every 10 ng/mL of vitamin D concentration in the mother’s blood during pregnancy, an 11% decrease in ADHD-like symptoms occurred.11
- In another double-blind placebo study, 218 post-menopausal women were split into two groups. The group that supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day had 37% less inflammation compared to the group that received the placebo.12
- In a study from the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 961 female nursing home residents over age 70 were tested for vitamin D. The group with the lowest levels had a 49% increased risk of mortality compared to the group with highest levels.13
- Vitamin D expert Dr. John Cannell has developed a theory that some immune issues are seasonal, due to variations in sunlight. These seasonal changes cause fluctuations in vitamin D levels.14
- Vitamin D activates genes that support an immune response to foreign entities in the body.15 Vitamin D has also been shown to support respiratory health.16,17
- In one therapeutic study, normalization of vitamin D levels was shown to significantly improve fatigue symptoms in primary care patients.18
- In a two-year trial of vitamin D supplementation with 1,500 patients, healthy sleep patterns were linked to normal vitamin D levels. The most significant changes were seen when vitamin D levels were kept between 60–80 ng/mL.19
What’s the takeaway? For general health, and specifically to reduce your hospital stays, make sure you have adequate vitamin D levels. If you have darker skin, you need to be particularly careful about this common deficiency.