Vitamin D supplements may help to prevent viral and bacterial infections | 16 February 2017

New research published today indicates that taking a regular vitamin D supplement will reduce the chance of picking up infections.

BBC Health News report on this research

Link to previous BBC news item on similar research:

Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter, public health advice in England and Wales says.

It comes as a government commissioned report sets the recommended levels at 10 micrograms of the vitamin a day.

But officials are concerned this may not be achievable through diet alone, particularly when sunlight, which helps in vitamin D production, is scarce.

Low vitamin D levels can lead to brittle bones and rickets in children.

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, comments:

We often flag up the fact that people with ME/CFS, especially those who are partially or totally housebound, are at increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency – mainly due to the lack of exposure to sunlight (which helps with vitamin D production). But this may also be compounded due to lack of foods that are good sources of vitamin D in their diet (i.e. oily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals).
 
This new advice from Public Health England, which recommends that everyone should consider taking a vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months, is therefore very relevant – because vitamin D is essential for good muscle and bone health. So any deficiency of vitamin D in ME/CFS could add to the problems of muscle weakness that is already occurring.
 
On a personal basis, I am following this advice and taking a vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months.

Link to the most recent MEA statement on vitamin D and ME/CFS and our June 2016 MEA website poll on the subject:
www.meassociation.org.uk/2016/06/why-are-we-asking-if-you-have-been-tested-for-vitamin-d-deficiency-in-this-months-mea-website-poll-1-june-2016/

All aspects of vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency, are covered in the MEA information leaflet on vitamin D:

Vitamin D deficiency


SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS RELATING TO THE VITAMIN D (25-HYDROXYVITAMIN D) BLOOD TEST

The National Osteoporosis society guidelines (UK, 2013) and the Institute of Medicine (US) classify vitamin D results as follows:

* 25-hydroxyvitamin D of less than 30 nmol/L is deficient
* 25-hydroxyvitamin D of 30-50 nmol/L may be inadequate in some people
* 25-hydroxyvitamin D of greater than 50 nmol/L is sufficient for almost the whole population.

Low blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D may mean that you are not getting enough exposure to sunlight or enough vitamin D in your food to meet your body’s demand or that there is a problem with its absorption from the intestines. Occasionally, drugs used to treat seizures, particularly phenytoin (epanutin), can interfere with the liver’s production of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

High levels of 25- hydroxyvitamin D usually reflect excess supplementation from vitamin pills or other nutritional supplements.

More info on the vitamin D blood test: http://labtestsonline.org.uk/understanding/analytes/vitamin-d/tab/glance/


SUMMARY OF RESEARCH INTO VITAMIN D AND ME/CFS – TAKEN FROM THE ME ASSOCIATION’S PURPLE BOOK (2016 EDITION),

Consider vitamin D deficiency in adults with restrictive diets and lack of access to sunlight. A retrospective study of serum 25-OH (hydroxy) vitamin D levels in 221 ME/CFS patients found moderate to severe suboptimal levels, with a mean level of 44.4nmol/l (Berkovitz et al 2009).

Vitamin D deficiency often goes unrecognised and can cause bone or muscle pain and muscle weakness. It can co-exist with ME/CFS.

Levels < 25nmol/ml may be associated with symptoms. NB: Low serum calcium and phosphate and an elevated alkaline phosphatase are consistent with osteomalacia.

Dr Charles Shepherd
Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association


Vitamin D supplements may prevent millions of winter infections | New Scientist | 15 February 2017