GrassrootsHealth was founded to get the message out that vitamin D levels matter… beginning with a consensus statement from over 40 vitamin D scientists from around the world recommending an optimal target of 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L) to prevent disease.
One of the very first graphics created by GrassrootsHealth and our Principle Investigator, Dr. Cedric Garland, was our Disease Incidence Prevention Chart – which looked at publications on the incidence of several different disease conditions, and clearly illustrated the difference in disease outcome based on varying vitamin D levels.
Dr. Robert Heaney also presented on the importance of understanding system-specific nutrient responses, emphasizing the multi-functional purpose of nutrients within human physiology. A perfect example with vitamin D is a comparison between its role in bone physiology and its role in pregnancy. It is well known that 99% of rickets is eliminated with a vitamin D level of at least 20 ng/ml, meanwhile, multiple studies show the increased demand for vitamin D during pregnancy, with outcomes such as a 60% decrease in preterm birth rates for those women who reach 40 ng/ml during pregnancy compared to women with levels below 20 ng/ml. Understanding that a different minimum threshold vitamin D level may be necessary for different systems within the body is essential, especially when optimization of function is a desired outcome.
The Immune System Relies on Vitamin D for Optimal Function
Vitamin D has many roles within immune system function. Without a certain amount of vitamin D available, different parts of the immune reaction will be hindered. Several studies have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic showing a significant association between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of COVID-19 infection and severity. We recently reviewed a study by Maghbooli et al that found much better outcomes among individuals with vitamin D levels over 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L). The data was further analyzed based on vitamin D levels of at least 40 ng/ml, and while there were not enough patients for a full analysis based on this classification, they found that of those over 40 years old with vitamin D blood levels less than 30 ng/ml, 20% died from COVID-19, whereas those with levels of at least 30 ng/ml, 9.7% died, and those with levels of at least 40 ng/ml, only 6.3% died.
Findings from a Population Study in Israel
Merzon et al. examined data from individuals in Israel who were tested for COVID-19 infection between February 1st and April 30th of 2020 to see if there was an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization. Out of 7,807 individuals with data on vitamin D levels and COVID status, a total of 782 tested positive for COVID-19 and 7,025 tested negative.
As illustrated in the chart above, the data showed an almost 60% increased risk in COVID-19 infection for individuals whose vitamin D level was below 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L) compared to individuals whose vitamin D level was 30 ng/ml or higher. The analysis also found that among the COVID-19 positive individuals, there was an almost doubled risk of hospitalization for those whose vitamin D levels were below 30 ng/ml.
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